If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
One summer’s day while sitting out on the lawn of my childhood home with my parents, they asked my brothers and I what we wanted to be when we grew up. After not paying attention to my brothers’ answers my parents came to my turn and I answered casually, “I want to be a writer.” I was young, probably only just in highschool, and hadn’t ever really given it too much thought to be honest. Nevertheless, it seemed completely possible to me at the time that I might one day be a writer – even if my parents were a little more than skeptical.
At the time, I was more of a storyteller than a writer. I’m certain that if you ask my friends, they’ll tell you about all the times I’ve bored them with long meandering tales with lots of embellishment and little payoff. I think I acquired this habit from my dad, though he’s always been better at it. He had a knack for pacing and a natural small-town charisma that is well received in most circles. Unlike my stories which are overwrought with unimportant details and full of my bone-dry charm, my dad had an effortless understanding of how to turn the mundane into wonderful triumphs of comedy.
I believe my problem in understanding how to convey my stories to people properly comes from an fondness for reading inherited from my mom. Aside from being deeply convenient for the symmetry of this entry, her love of reading inspired much of my own escapism. Unfortunately, reading dialogue and conversing are quite different, especially if the topics that you’re most comfortable with include Jedi Knights, super-heroes and wizards.
However, I persevered. In high school I wrote 50+ pages of directionless gay YA on my parents anachronistic computer. I had a shelf dedicated to notebooks filled with little snippets of stories or plot outlines which have evolved over time into full stories. Eventually I graduated to writing a novel for NaNoWriMo 2012 which is languishing on my MacBook’s hard drive in desperate need of revision. I’ve even been paid to write the odd blog post.
I suppose in the strictest sense of the word, I write and in so doing am a writer. However as I announce my evolution from storyteller to writer, I can’t help but feel a little disillusioned. Somewhere in my imagination, I assumed that by declaring myself a writer I would be given new abilities. I think I pictured myself turning into a kind of writing super-hero, but instead of spandex and heat-vision I would have a sexy typewriter and an air of intelligence about me.
In escaping to this meta-fantasy about being a writer, I’ve overlooked one very important lesson that I thought I learned from a book as a child. The book was about a young troll doll obsessed with finding a magic stone so he could be super strong and be inducted into a wonderful group of similarly powerful trolls. His obsession however is misguided as it turns out all parent trolls have the stones which imbue them with the benevolent traits necessary to be good parents and that they aren’t found, but earned… or something. It was a long time ago and I’m missing some of the nuances which were key to the story’s brilliance.
The point is, I erroneously romanticized the idea of a writer as a status which is simply received rather than earned. I’ll need to read and write a lot and, if I may be so bold as to suggest an amendment to Stephen King’s quote, I’ll also need to listen a lot.
I hadn’t intended to write out an explanation of the title of this blog, Advice Ignored, but being the horrible pantser that I am, I never plan nearly enough. Either out of stubbornness or myopic naiveté I ignore good advice that exists for young writers in. Admittedly, not all the advice that is out there is necessarily good, but part of the fun I’m sure will be the journey, which I am obliged to share here.
In the meantime, I don’t discredit the thousands of words I’ve written, but if I really want to be a writer it’ll require more blood, sweat, tears, and alcohol than I had previously envisioned.