I want to be a writer. I tell myself that all the time, but I don’t do what it takes to become a writer. I don’t write. I sit in front of the blank computer screen, and eventually become discouraged because I don’t know how to start. Or if I do happen to get started, the constant pressing of the backspace button defeats the purpose. I haven’t learned to just let the words flow, to allow the work to take shape, to let it birth itself for the world to enjoy. Censor this, cut out that, edit on the fly. I feel that it should be easier. I am constantly interrupted by any number of things; life, work, the annoying goings on in my own head.
Do I have what it takes to be a writer? I have very little formal training in the English Arts. Sure I’ve had the requisite college hours to satisfy my degree requirements, but is that enough to become a writer? I read constantly, devouring page after page of mostly non-fiction, but peppering in a novel or two for good measure. Reading about the authors of these works usually goes something like “so and so graduated from such and such university with a degree in English”, or Journalism, or 18th century poetry, or any other number of degrees that require hour upon hour of studying and perfecting the written word. Very rarely do I read about the author and it goes something like “This author barely finished his associate’s degree, but decided he wanted to write a book so he did and now he’s famous”. Maybe someday that’s what the back of my book will say.
The fact that you are reading this means that I finally sat my fat butt down and gave my fingers a workout. Sometimes the words come easy. More of ten than not, though, I have to pry the thoughts from the cesspool that is my brain, forcing my fingers to replicate my thoughts onto the screen. It shouldn’t be so hard. I shouldn’t have to try, the words should just come. If only it were that easy.
I don’t want to write for a living. That’s not what my goal in life is. Actually, I’m not really sure what my goal in life is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not to be a full time writer. I know I don’t have the skills for that. I just want to write something substantial. Something that will make the reader not feel as if they have just wasted their time reading some garbage that some idiot felt the need to put into words. I want the reader to feel a connection, to feel that somehow my words and thoughts have put something into perspective for them. Perhaps my words and feelings could bring a little more understanding into the world. Maybe, just maybe, something I write will help bring comfort to someone in their time of need, or provide a well needed escape from the mundane.
Like most people, I am my harshest critic. I will write something, read it, and then delete it. “That’s crap. Nobody wants to read that. It doesn’t make any sense.” So in an effort to improve my writing, I seek feedback. Relying mostly on those closest to me, but other times asking the general public. My wife once told me that my writing lacked flavor, stating that it was the literary equivalent of “eating boiled white rice with no salt.” Ouch. Comments such as those, although harsh, are what it takes to force improvement. My writing won’t improve if nobody is honest and just says “oh yeah, that was great.” So I thank my wife for her harsh words and being honest with me. I need criticism, but at the same time I also crave validation. I need to know that I am on the right track, but I also need to know what to do in order to become a better writer.
“Try blogging” was one recommendation made recently to me by a friend of mine. Nope. No blogging. Why not? I guess it’s because I’m somewhat of a snob when it comes to writing, but I know that I don’t have the right to be. To me blogging isn’t “real” writing; it’s the online equivalent of a teenage girl keeping a diary. And let’s face it, my life is nowhere interesting enough for me to put it out there for the world to see and actually waste time reading about. Now, I know I am sure to catch flack for this point of view, and I probably should. I’ve read plenty of blogs where I thought the author was not only creative and poignant, but was capable of much greater writing than that of a mere blog.
Better writing won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Because I will make it happen. I’ll write and write and write. And then when I think I’m finished, I’ll write some more. And then, I’ll write even more. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be reading about me on the back cover of my book and wonder to yourself “how did this guy ever become such a good writer?” Maybe by then I will have found my voice.