*This is a post for my NaNoWriMo 2014 attempt! It isn’t edited, except for the parsing down of thousands of words to a manageable size. Or a pretend manageable size. There are typos and missing words and potentially, the beginning of the post will have nothing to do with the end. But I remind you, “editing is for December.” So don’t judge too harshly, this is writing for writing’s sake! Enjoy!
People. I can’t tell you what a frustrating week it’s been at work. I’d love to rant and rave about it for hours (infact, my poor darling roommates have had to deal with my incoherent babbling all week, so appreciate your physical distance from me right now.)
But talking about what makes me angry just makes me angrier. Instead I’m going to try and focus on something positive. It’s sort of an assignment I got from work, actually, but it’s something I’ve alway wanted to write about.
How I became a writer.
Now, to clarify, I am not a writer.
Confusing, I know, but bear with me here.
Writing was what I best at in school. I’m talking since elementary school. The 5th grade, we were told to write a story that described what Jonas found in his hypothermic state, after leaving his hometown at the end of The Giver. My story was a description of assimilation into a society misunderstood by the main character, and a lack of acceptance of the unknown into the traditions of this new world. Age 11, people.
In the 6th grade, the creative writing prompt was picture-based; everyone pick one of these pictures and write a story to accompany it. Groans from all my classmates, and a 20-page story from me. 20 pages, for a 2-page assignment. I distinctly remember the picture but only vaguely remember the story I wrote. Up until that point, my favorite part of school had been reading, but I was beginning to separate the two crafts in my head – the difference between reading and writing. To me, they had always been two peas in a pod, one in the same. But now, they were beginning to seem like very different pastimes. Still pastimes though.
I struggled through high school math classes and excelled in english and came out on the positive side of average in everything else. In 9th grade, I scored 99 out of 100 on the English Regents Exam (an awful standardized test, for anyone who doesn’t live in NY.) I can also pinpoint exactly the singular question I got wrong; it was about a volcano…
Then came electives. OH GOSH, THE FREEDOM.
But what was left to me after deductively reasoning out math, science, business and marketing courses, “Family and Consumer Science,” technology education, extra social studies, additional music, expanded extra languages? English. Seven pages of english electives and only three years in which to take them. The course structure hasn’t changed much in the 5 years since I graduated, so reading straight from the handbook I found on Google, I can tell you I took Public Speaking, Children’s Literature (Kiddie Lit,) Suspense and the Supernatural, a Shakespeare course – there was little to no demand for it when I was there, so I’m not surprised it’s gone – and Intro to Journalism, also gone.
It was in my creative writing class that I found the release in storytelling. I learned about myself and my writing habits and how they differed from other people and I finally met some interesting characters in my own high school.
I met some writers. Some skilled, some pompous. My first introduction into the world of art and artists and the many lines drawn and crossed and erased and made up. I remember a ton of the people in that class by name and face and that’s saying a lot, seven years after the fact.
I do particularly remember one guy. What’s irritating to me is that if he ever stumbled across this post he would know immediately that I’m talking about him. Asshole. He was one of the students that bridged the gap between skilled and pompous. Probably still does to this day. Whatever. At the time I was mesmerized by his and his friend’s work and how easily they seemed to come up with stories. Mine is not a brain that came preprogrammed with good ideas. I sort of develop good ideas into great ideas and see them through to execution. If I have ideas of my own, I quickly lose the will to carry them out because no one is depending on me to accomplish them. Or they sucked. I am also getting better at spotting bad ideas from the get-go, which is a talent in itself.
But this guy, these students, they were pros. Naturals, ideas for days, and they never slowed down. They pumped out quality piece every day, every class, every assignment. And my ideas always seemed to fall flat, even to me. The teacher told me I had talent and potential, and gave me an A+ on my final assignment (because I’m a kiss-ass and she loved me.) But I was sort of envious of the guys who weren’t getting pats on the back. Who were different and knew they were different and were proud of it, flaunted it, and used it as their defining factor.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, this was my first experience with hipsters. And in the 10th grade, I thought That. Was. Awesome.
So, I guess I should get back to the point of the post, which is that it was an assignment in this class that sort of, shifted my ideas about “being a writer.” Sorry, I’m all about the tangents. I’m currently using NaNo as an excuse to write anything and everything I feel like writing AND NOT EDITING IT HOWAWESOMEISTHAT.
It was a poem. I never wrote angsty teenage poetry before. I don’t remember the assignment, but I think it had something to do with using metaphors. My poem was about a chimney. Or a roof that had a chimney. Or a chimney on a roof. Whatever. It wasn’t that long, and it was superrrrr overdone and dramatic. About how people ignored chimneys until they were a nuisance and didn’t appreciate the sturdiness and safety a chimney brought to a home and how you couldn’t even see a chimney until you were too far away to care. So. Deep.
Even then I knew it was a little pretentious, but it was the closest thing I had to something that sounded remotely like what the other kids were writing. It had flow, it had a clear purpose, it used metaphors like a boss. So, I volunteered to read it in class. I hadn’t been shy, but I also hadn’t been very proud of my previous work. Always got harsh critiques. With serious anxiety, I read this one to the class, from my seat behind the super talented dude.
And they liked it. I got a compliment from the teacher, I got a nod from the guy to my right. Not like a, secret spy movie confirmation nod, or an old western, “Good on ya,” nod. One of those shoulder-raised, thoughtful nods where he stuck his bottom lip out and bobbed his head, considering the validity of my poem. SWEET.
And lo and behold, talented student-boy gave me the world’s greatest compliment. It was concise. I did a good job with my writing, and I also crafted a story worthy of his oh so exceptional ears, and it was short. See, he had once made a statement about the ridiculousness of word counts for assignments. Why did he have to waste a bunch of words on a paper when he could say everything he wanted to say in one sentence. Asshole. And he’s totally right.
I’m still torn here.
But that was it for me. I had achieved greatness. The person I was seeking approval from, gave it to me. I didn’t even realize it was his approval I wanted until I got it and was like WHAT? YES. GOOD. OKAY.
And somewhere in there, I began to view the art of writing differently. I wasn’t just a hobby, it wasn’t just a perk of my existence that made school a million times easier. It was a skill. A skill not everyone had, not everyone honed, and not everyone could get on my level with. Sure, I wasn’t as good as most of my creative writing class. But this was my thing, and I knew it.
This in combination with my mother and I being OBSESSED with Gilmore Girls at the time, helped me to start forming a life plan for myself.
I knew I couldn’t be a novelist. I understood early on I was not an ideas guys. A good listener, a stellar advice giver, sure, but i had no bright ideas in terms of plots of fiction.
So what could I do? Well, thank you Rory Gilmore for introducing me to the concept of journalism as a profession. International investigative reporting, no less. The show ended in May of 2007, the end of 10th grade for me, and I was totally infatuated with the idea of learning all about political science and use my brilliant brain to change the world through the medium of my writing. Journalism, here I come!
Well, I’ve changed my mind many many times since then. Funny, I so very much wanted to be like Rory in college, before I ever went to college. Having graduated college, I now envy Lorelai…
I’m so strange. Clearly I’m on the Gilmore Girls rewatch everyone else is doing, like I mentioned briefly in my last post.
A lot has happened since those innocent days of creative writing class. I got to college and met kids who read five times as much as I ever had and already wrote ten times better than I ever would. I’m still friends with some of them today.
I use writing in my current career in my own way, adding flair in whatever way I can and taking any chance I get to be a little creative. I guess I’m not a writer, because writing is now once again something I see as a perk of being me. It’s a standard feature, and something I’ll bring to the table of anything I do in life. It’s a big score if you ask me. People are USELESS communicators nowadays and the ability to speak confidently and write competently is something that seems totally lost to the ether, especially in the resumes and cover letters I’ve been receiving for internship positions at my company.
However, I’d like to still consider myself a writer. Not a skilled writer and most importantly, not a very concise writer! Though my editing process is improving, clearly, because this post was over 3,000 words in its raw form. But writing it what I do to escape. To feel better about myself and in my own skin, I write in my spare time (something I have less and less of these days.) I appreciate and examine all different kinds of writing now, thanks to the things I’ve learned and more importantly, thanks to the people who taught them to me.
I love writing, even if I’m not a stellar writer. And I love reading, even though I have zero time to do it anymore. And when I read, I consider not just the story but the writing itself and I think that’s what makes me a writer. There are different interpretations of writers and definitions of writers and criteria for writers that I definitely don’t meet. Do a quick Google search for inspirational quotes about writing, you probably won’t find two that I fit.
But it doesn’t matter to me. I think I’m a writer because I love doing it and I love everything about it and envy anyone who can and does do it. And I’m picking my own definition. So there.