In addition to being plain old weird, I also sat in my room writing stories.
I was a hobbit. I was broke. And I sat in my room writing software and short stories.
Since I had no college degree, I convinced myself that I’d never get hired as a computer programmer, so I took an inventory of my skills (that’s what a book in the library told me I needed to do) and decided:
I’d make some money as a writer.
Good thing my parents felt bad for me or I’d have starved to death.
It’s like talking except you scribble (type?) it down for others to see, potentially long after you’re gone depending on how this whole digital world thing pans out over time.
But I couldn’t just become a writer, that’s absurd. I need to take a class. Learn at the feet of a master! Make sure the gatekeepers are fed and all that nonsense.
Creative Writing seemed like a good idea, so I signed up. The instructor was some dude that had published several essays in The Southern Review and had sold the movie rights to one of his books right before the semester kicked off. He seemed cool enough, and obviously had the professional credentials of a writer. And he was making money. Never mind the fact that he’d been writing for a gazillion years and was just now starting to make money outside teaching.
I’d listen to him lecture about writing. Idea generation, plot, character development, yadda, yadda, yadda. No disrespect, but that was all a little boring. All good shit, but nothing about writing.
So I raised my hand.
Was my genius suggestion.
Me, a tan lanky ass weirdo a few months out of the U.S. Marine Corps in a madras plaid shirt, tan shorts, argyle socks, and suede bucks. It was the 1980’s, that was actually a thing.
OK, Mr. Hubbard. Let’s write.
He proposed an exercise where he’d play the A side of a Bach album while the class scratched out a few paragraphs. When the music stopped, we would read what we had written. Out loud. To the class.
I read my little story about a lonely man having some soup.
As he ate, he thought about his wife and daughter, both long gone, and the road trip he had taken last Spring, and all he had to do to get ready for winter. As he put the dishes into the sink he noticed several small animals walking toward the lake, so he went outside. He walked with them. Down the bank and into the lake, slowly swimming toward the other side. Out of nowhere, bubbles rose past his eyes and he started feeling cold. Cold and drifting. Drifting into the most peaceful sleep he’d had in years. He stirred a little when he noticed his daughter walking toward him, waving, and laughing with excitement, but he was so tired.
I stopped talking. My insane, booming voice bounced off the tile walls for a few seconds then fell silent.
Everyone stared at me, a few with mouth agape trying to catch flies. I think a little spit dripped out of one. I’m obviously a freak.
The instructor smiled and nodded his big old head.
I can’t do this.
I dropped the class the next morning.
I ran into my former writing instructor at a local bar later that semester and he asked what had happened. He told me to keep writing which was pretty encouraging.
And that was a very long time ago.
So long ago that you had to go through publishers, and reviewers, and all sorts of shit just to get anything published. And I’m talking about a ton of ass pain to meet the demands of editors at publications that paid in copies. No money, just bragging rights, but if you’re an academic it’s how you justified your employment.
I combined my technical skills with my writing skills and wrote a few technical books, and a few chapters in others, and did some editing.
Writing helped me buy my first house.
Kind of cool that words can do that for you.
And it’s easier today that it ever was, and probably getting easier by the day.
But there is a downside.
You have to write.
There are no shortcuts.
You can’t pay people to teach you how to write.
Well, I mean you can, but you won’t learn how to become a writer.
You will learn the mechanics of writing, and how to market your writing, and publications and platforms that will publish your stories.
But to become a writer, you have to write.
That’s pretty basic stuff right?
It’s like paying someone to teach you to become a professional basketball player.
You have skills, or you don’t, but skills can be developed over time.
You join a team, work with a coach, watch tape, learn the game.
But in the end you need to get out on the court and spend hours upon hours tossing the ball, working with a team, and developing skills.
And you might be good enough to join a competitive recreational league.
Or you might get picked up by a college, or if you are a no shit mad man, you can walk on to a real team. I know there are NBA prep camps down in Florida. They’ll take your money.
Do your thing.
It’s you, talking to us. Be you, use your voice, write to me like you are talking to me.
Or do whatever you want.
I know I do.