Assignment #43 for The Terrace, a writing group dedicated to helping you get published.
|How did I become a writer? An early childhood memory of me scrawling some notes on sheets of paper and delivering those "newspapers" to neighbors around the block indicates that my interest in writing was there from the very beginning. That inclination became veiled, however, when I discovered baseball. That and other sports interests consumed most of my time and energy through the teen-age years.
While soul-searching to identify the best prospects for a new career after being discharged from the Navy, I realized the things I enjoyed most and with which I had the most success all involved writing of some kind. A job as a technical writer for an aircraft manufacturing company seemed the perfect fit, combining that natural attraction with my engineering education. The roller coaster aspect of fortunes in the aircraft industry eventually led to another career change.
Over a seventeen-year stint with a global shipping company, I got my daily writing fix through correspondence with associates and customers, along with preparation of training materials and reviews of systems and procedures. During that period, I started tinkering with the idea of doing something more creative--reading about the process and dreaming, but not bringing those dreams to fruition. Working ten to twelve hours a day didn't leave much energy for outside interests.
When the company offered an early retirement package, I jumped on it with both feet. Some people called it age discrimination. I called it my ticket back to the laid-back lifestyle in South Carolina after nine years of hectic rush and shoveling snow in New Jersey. Along with that came the opportunity to pursue the dreams which had been buried in the clutter of work.
While browsing the magazine rack at a book store, I spotted a publication proclaiming itself as "a horror magazine for aspiring writers." I certainly met the "aspiring" criteria. Perusing some of the stories, I concluded that I could write at least as well as many of the writers featured, so I sat myself down and wrote a story for submission. It was accepted and published, and I was on the path to a creative writing career.
I took several online workshops to hone my skills in plot and character development. I also took a six-week poetry workshop, which included a supplemental reference to Writing.Com. Voila! Here I am.
Shortly after posting my first items, I was invited to join The Terrace, a writing group which focused on helping people get published. I joined that group, but I also had an itch to learn more about poetry, so I enrolled as a student in the poetry class of a group called The Creative Writing Forum. Within a week, I was recruited to "help out" as a teaching assistant. Shortly thereafter, that poetry class was expanded to three classes, and I found myself teaching a class of my own with only the background of that single poetry workshop upon which to draw. When the other poetry teacher dropped out due to internet problems, I was suddenly teaching three classes on my own. The pressure of finding fresh material for three classes each week provided the incentive to keep scrambling around the internet and through library books. That on-the-job training helped me build a foundation of knowledge and resources covering the craft of poetry. Other teachers came and went as The Creative Writing Forum evolved into the A-1 Writing Academy and the poetry department expanded from three classes to six. The administrative burdens required to support all that expansion finally became more than I could handle, so I had to leave.
Since then, I've been putting the knowledge and resources I accumulated to use in sharpening my writing skills by writing for contests, submitting work for publication, and teaching workshops of my own. I've written lesson books for two poetry workshops offered in affiliation with the Shade Tree Poets' Sanctuary group and am currently gathering material for a book of poetic forms. I spend several hours every day involved in some part of the writing process--researching topics, delving for images and words, writing anything from workshop lessons and contest entries to reviews of other people's work, polishing old drafts, perusing market listings. Taking that away would definitely leave a gaping hole in my world.
Motivation for this drive comes in many forms. As I mentioned earlier, I've always had a strong desire to inform and enlighten others. The challenge of crafting the language into something meaningful, like molding a clump of clay with your hands, is a refreshing recreational outlet. Writing also provides the opportunity to express my most personal responses to this mysterious, beautiful, and sometimes painful world in the shapes, sounds, textures, and emotions of the imagination as a powerful means of therapeutic release. Receiving readers' reactions, such as "gave me chills" or "laughed so hard I almost peed my pants," made me realize that the desire to entertain is also a driving force. The thought of getting up on stage like a stand-up comedian would petrify me, but I have no problem putting thoughts and emotions on paper to share with an unseen audience. Publication of my work provides an extra level of validation.
Inspiration comes from the fleeting sights, sounds, and reactions from the world around me that I capture on my little notepad. Sprinkle those into the vast array of memories and chimerical fantasies that my muse helps me conjure, and you have a treasure trove of details just waiting to be plucked from the maelstrom in the sea of my imagination.
In short, the answer to your question is I have always been a writer. I have become the writer that I am today through a series of evolutionary phases along a meandering path of enchanting exploration. These are the ingredients that have gone into the concoction of my writing. I plan to continue sampling different cuisines as I venture down new avenues as well as a few less traveled pathways. Bon appetit!