I’m having an anarchist moment — as of late, I’ve been putting out blogs focused on the people out there who have aspirations to be writers. I’m sharing any wisdom I may have gained, mostly because I have a sincere problem with the way people want you to buy their wisdom from them. I’ve always heard that “the game is to be sold, not to be told.” I don’t agree with that one bit — the way I see it, if I have information that may benefit you, I feel that it’s my obligation to share it with you! There is enough creative energy for everyone and enough room at the writer’s table for everyone to contribute a few pages to the history of humanity.
This week’s wisdom for potential writers is the obvious signs that I missed that I should have been working towards being a writer the entire time. These signs seem obvious now, but back then, it was as clear as mud. I am sharing this with you because I want you to evaluate your history; where there some obscured “a ha!” moments that you may have missed? Do you feel that itch to start writing yet? Maybe you will before you get to the end of this blog.
No. 1: The way I played as a kid. I’ve always loved action figures! It was my go-to imagination vehicle as a child — specifically, X-Men action figures. Now, I am very familiar with the X-Men mythos, but I just wasn’t satisfied to recreate my favorite comic book scenes; I wanted to take the X-Men on new adventures, rewrite their histories, add plot twists to the way I understood them. I had my own world inside the world of the X-Men and it didn’t stop there, no fandom was safe in my hands.
I played by myself a lot, I didn’t have the time or energy to acclimate any of the other boys in the neighborhood to see the adventure the way I saw it. I couldn’t make them understand how the tree branch that I’d picked up off of the ground was the Ancient Sword of Alms and why they should be in awe that I was able to wield it. Admittedly, the Ancient Sword of Alms didn’t mean a single thing to anyone but me, so I can’t hold it against them. I would spend hours in these worlds that I had created for myself, wrapped up in these adventures that I had created.
I’d like to tell you that this imagination didn’t bleed over into the real world, but I’d also like to tell you that I was supremely confident in my own skin too. I was a strange child, but most creative types are, aren’t we?
No. 2: The way I listened to music. One of the most profound concepts that I’d ever heard when I worked for a radio station was the idea that “radio is the theatre of the mind.” Boy howdy, did that ring some bells for me! I’ve always been a very visual listener and that has been invaluable throughout the writing process for me.
In the music context, I have to put very little effort into visualizing the portrait the musician is trying to portray. For example, the song “Further on up the Road” by Bruce Springsteen; when I hear that song, I have a very clear picture of Bruce Springsteen by a ghostly undertaker of sorts. Is there any direct line that says “I’m an undertaker”? No. He does say about his graveyard boots and his smiling skull ring — I filled in the blanks myself. Bruce Springsteen might not be the greatest example, because he’s such a powerful lyricist.
Song titles have a similar effect – the title of the AFI song “Days of the Phoenix” gave me a clear fictional idea, and a book was born from that. I was working on a sci-fi piece and the song “Silent Running” by Mike and the Mechanics jogged a few ideas along.
No. 3: The way I approached creative assignments in school. I was a tremendous pain in the ass — my teachers try telling me different as an adult, but they aren’t fooling me. Remember in the movie “A Christmas Story” when all of the kids in Ralphie’s class act like they were going to be served day old rat crap for lunch when the teacher told them they had a writing assignment? I never related to those kids. I loved my composition book — in fact, I’d love to get my hands on another one of those tan bad boys!
When we’d get a writing assignment, I would question the assignment in every which way my ADHD imagination would run with it. An assignment as simple as: “write a letter from a point of view of an apple about to be picked” — is the apple being picked to be made into a pie? Is the apple about to be eaten by a man on his way to work? Is the man eating the apple going to be abducted by aliens on his way to work? Do the aliens who have abducted him have apples on their planet and if not, are they allergic to them and not know it? It’s that kind of hemorrhoid behavior that I’m talking about.
I’d be interested to see the correlation between teachers at my school that have drinking problems and compare it to the list of teachers whose classes I’d been in.
No. 4: The scores I got on standardized tests (involving reading & writing aptitudes). Here’s a gem that a lot of people who knew me when I was a teenager don’t really know: I was a straight A student in elementary school. From what I can recollect, I’ve always struggled with attention issues, but elementary school had the kind of hand holding structure that someone with ADHD craves in a learning environment. It wasn’t until high school that I struggled with the independence of studying and having multiple teachers.
Ailments and afflictions aside, I remember seeing the letter on the table when I’d came home. It wasn’t unusual for my mother to get letters from the school — I hadn’t been completing assignments, I didn’t pay attention, I wasn’t living up to my potential — when we opened the letter and read it, I was sure that I could have knocked my mom on the ground with a sneeze. According to the State of Pennsylvania, I was highly proficient in reading and writing. Imagine that: a kid with undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, who had been written off by his peers as a slacker, was being recognized by something he had done right!
When someone, peers or government, go out of their way to acknowledge an aptitude, you might want to explore your career avenues — that’s any industry.
No. 5: The times I’d been questioned about the words I’d used on school projects. I’ve had two educators crush my feelings over the way that I wrote. The first was a fifth grade teacher that had her fill of my ADD bullshit over the year and the second was a guidance counselor who thought I may have been plagiarizing my senior project. In both cases, those educators were wrong, but I can see where they were coming from as an adult.
In fifth grade, I’d used the word “tendril;” I had learned the word from the pages of X-Men — that was clue number one that I was a vocabulary sponge. For my senior project, I used the word “disenfranchised,” which I had picked up from watching “Megadeth: Behind the Music.” I wasn’t going out to look for big words to make my teacher’s ears bleed, I just liked the way they sounded. They were shiny new additions to my lexicon and that made me happy — I do the very same thing with the way I will utilize phrases in business correspondence.
If you enjoy empowering yourself with language, you should take it as a sign that you should be a writer.
No. 6: The way I’d write stories to pass the time. Yeah, this one is pretty on the nose and obvious. As a child, I loved writing in a brand new notebook — I reveled in those assignments where we had to write scary stories in our composition books. I remember in sixth grade, a friend and I wrote stories and reach other’s work, for fun, just because. As I’d get older, I’d play online RPG games where I had to invent a completely original character and have them interact with other people’s characters. I’m not sure how a lot of other authors would feel about RPG games being a form of writing — I do, it helped shape the way I wrote and enhanced my command over language.
This one wasn’t as obvious as it should have been — I had always thought of myself as a fraud when I wrote as a youngster; I didn’t think that the writing prowess belonged to me, so how dare I try to take my relationship with it out in public? That was wrong — as soon as I have a mastery of time travel, I’m slapping that portly little self-doubter and demanding he write me a story about how wrong he was.
This applies to you as well. No one gets a say whether or not you get to identify as a writer, that’s completely up to you. You might not get paid for it, but as soon as you put words to page, you are a writer and you need to take that craft seriously.
I hope that I’ve helped the closet writers find something in themselves to take that first step towards being a writer. You have just as much right to create literature as anyone else — begin, right now, by giving yourself permission to be seen as a writer.
I’ll see you on your next trip across the Millerverse!