Tag Archives: mythology

How to Become a Writer

writer

It all starts with a different perspective, an understanding that you are, in some way, the Other.

Maybe it starts when your mother, then the thrall of your two-year-old whims, reads the same five books to you every day for three months on end. Pre-school is a better option, the psychiatrist says. How soon can he get in?

Maybe it starts in kindergarten when you raise your hand and tell the teacher you’re disgusted with being forced to read baby books that contain just one word per page. Red, green, doggy, kitty, who gives a shit? When are we going to read real books? you demand to know.

To which your wonderful, inspiring teacher replies, You can’t read real books.

So you pull the biggest book you can find off the shelf and prove her wrong.

Maybe it starts in the library where your teachers now allow you to go for hours of class time because you keep testing one or two points under “gifted”, but they still don’t know what to do with you. Greek Mythology looks interesting. There are naked people, after all, and heroes with swords. So you read every scrap of paper in that place, transported, as Bradbury would say, to other worlds, to parallel universes.

By the third grade, you weep for Hera, for whom you’re carrying a bit of a torch because Zeus never treated her the way you imagine Arthur must have treated Guinevere.

By your third decade, you weep to think of the library replaced by a glowing square wherein all the words in the world are intact, but Bradbury’s portal to the stars has been severed forever.

Maybe it starts when reading all those Lloyd Alexander books inspires you to write your first real short story. And hopefully it doesn’t end when you enter it in the 6th grade academic faire, and the judges call your parents to accuse them of foul play. There’s just no way your son wrote this on his own, they say. But your parents back you, stand firm. So the contest judges give you an honorable mention and award the Language Arts prize to a trio of girls who wrote and illustrated a baby book. Red, green, doggy, kitty…

Maybe this is where you pick up your loathsome habit of constantly correcting incompetent teachers, professors, political figures… After all, the world would be Narnia with a side of Idun’s apples if someone would just listen to you, right?

Maybe, as you develop further, it all lays dormant within you. There are other outlets. The sports teams you join solely to impress your father. The video games that tug at your imagination in ways that stories once did. Your early musings on girls, who can’t possibly be comprised of flesh and blood (and make-up and accessories!), but must by literary definition be fair, otherwordly, magical.

Not romance, but Romanticism. Not glamor, Faerie Glamour.

Life happens. Still, perhaps the need to write is rekindled by the realization of your continued idolization of characters that could never be, and your steadfast beliefs in wondrous things that never were.

Somehow it is—it must be—rekindled.

Maybe it’s fanfiction that gets the gears grinding again. Maybe it’s bad breakup poetry that would make your English teacher weep for all the wrong reasons. Maybe it’s NaNoWriMo.

Maybe it’s a blog.

What it is doesn’t matter so much as what you do with it, for here the path splits. Either you write in isolation for a time, with no audience in mind, merely to hear the sound of your own voice, or you write to try and impress. Your choice. There’s no right path or wrong path now, no high road or low road. You’re going to be here awhile because Robert Frost sold you an odious lie—writers can’t just choose the road less traveled by.

Crossroads-in-the-woods2

Without a voice, no writer can be heard. Without an audience, no writer can be heard. The writer must therefore take both paths, see every milestone through, and hopefully learn something of metaphor along the way.

For some, there will come a time of purple prose, spurred on by examining too closely the writing styles of your chosen pantheon of pen-wielding paragons. (You want to be a writer, so I assume you’re reading something worthy of examination.) For others, there will come a time of unmetered verse, spurred on by focusing too deeply on the expression of your proven pantheon of poets.

You will doubt yourself a writer when you examine your works of three months past and feel only shame.

Maybe this is where you go to college and study English while dealing with the general perception that you’re studying a language that you speak because you have failed famously at every other endeavor in your life.

Or maybe this is where you try to quit. It’s easier to make a living at almost anything else, you realize. And such beastly competition about it. Maybe you’re not a writer at all, but a man of action.

Maybe this is where reality rattles you.

But you won’t quit. Writing is something you do. It isn’t your choice. You’re an Other, remember? You have perspective. And besides, your opinionated nature is driving your spouse crazy and turning your children into perfect cynics. Here, a notebook! they say. Now go away!

This might be the part where your mind, which has to analyze anything, everything, nothing, will ponder how a relationship can be strengthened by space. You’re not going to figure it out, though. No one ever has. This frustrates you, so you begin doing the only thing in your power—writing. Writing!

You are the master of your own illusionary world.

Somehow, out of this bowed, blank screen; out of these dull, black letters, a voice will emerge. It will resonate. You will know it for your own. You will sound your barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

Someone might even hear it.

And that issue you were writing about? You realize that when you apply it to an audience, when you stop writing in a vacuum, it becomes an idea.

How to become an author, you ask? That’s a different topic. Rostand wrote that love is a lottery. When it comes to loving one’s words, I agree with him entirely.

And when it comes to taking that next step, Rostand would doubtless agree with this, my new favorite image of all time:

pen-sword

 

21 Comments

Filed under Education, Family, Fantasy, My Writing, Publishing, Rants, Reading, Science Fiction, Writing

“Blogging isn’t writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation.”

I used to believe this. I guess I still do–from a certain point of view. After all, if I’m wasting my time blogging, I could be working on my next novel or (joy of joys) writing free curriculum for the high school or playing Don’t Break the Ice with my kids.

Ki: (hands me the mallet) Here you go, Daddy! It’s your turn to sink the polar bear and be the scapegoat for global warming!

Me: (gulps) Okay, Ki-bi. Listen, I haven’t cleaned out the garage in awhile. You don’t happen to have a secret lab hidden under the garage or anything, do you?

Aurie: If you do, Kiera, Santa knows about it. And Easter Bunny won’t come. And Thor will punish you with all the might of Asgard!

Me: (tries to hand Aurie the mallet) Hey, do you want to demonstrate what Thor’s hammer–

Aurie: Mjolnir.

Me: Right. What Mjolnir could do to a hollow block of plastic ice?

Ki: (throws up her hands) Quit stalling, Daddy!

Yeah. I could be doing that. Or, I could be ranting about the kinds of stuff I can’t talk about in front of my kids, who are five and eight respectively, on a public website.

I had considered starting a blog a few times in the past. There was the time when I was fed up with my teaching gig and thought it might be entertaining to post some of the antics that occur within these hallowed halls of higher learning I so devoutly serve.

Student: (flailing her hand spasmodically) Pike, Pike! (I hold a master’s degree, but somehow I don’t warrant a ‘mister’.) I know a better way them dog thieves coulda handled Buck!

Me: Enlighten me, ye child of Florence who dost doubtless fathom more than did Jack London.

Student: Daddy had a problem with our dog gettin’ inta the neighbor’s property and chasin’ ‘is chickens cause there was kinda this hole in our fence…

(At this point, I already know that said rustic parental unit did not do the sensible thing and just patch the fence, but I’m expecting to hear that he chained the dog to a post or paid more for one of those choker collars than he would for a bundle of chicken wire.)

Student: …so Daddy jes’ beat the dog with a chicken to learn him not to chase chickens no more!

Me: He beat the dog…?

Student: (nodding eagerly) With a chicken!

Me: Was this chicken alive or dead?

Student: Dead.

Me: Before or after he beat the dog with it?

Student: I’m not sure…

Too much more of this, and I risk offending one of the most venerable families in Florence, AZ…

There was also the time I tried to be a Vegan. I watched a documentary wherein stressed, overweight men quit their jobs and drank their meals out of a juicer until they were healthy again. My conversion went well at first. I lost 25 pounds in less than three weeks. I was going to adopt the title “The Green Knight” and blog about my life changing experience so that others could benefit from my newfound wisdom.

Then I started having these vivid dreams about being a caveman and slaying a mastodon with a crudely wrought spear. In later versions, I devoured the sucker raw and on the spot, hair and bones and all. Needless to say, my primal urges got the better of me in the end.

M-E-A-T.

Emily and I also conspired to start a blog for parents regarding the dearth of quality children’s programming on cable and Netflix, but we never got around to it. We’re both curious as to why our kids’  favorite shows feature a cool babysitter/sibling figure who replaces the pivotal role that parents should play in the main characters’ lives. Where the hell are Ruby and Max’s parents? Why did Carli’s parents leave her in the care of her mentally challenged brother and under the influence of a best friend who is a con in the making? Do Dora’s parents allow her to go exploring in the jungle because her head looks like a caricature of Vader’s helmet in silhouette and they secretly hope she’ll be devoured by a curmudgeony leopard before those awkward teenage years set in? And what the hell is up with Hey Jes-SAY!?

You can see where something like that would have gone.

So why the blog now? Well…

Emily: Did you see the new stuff Patrick Rothfuss posted to his blog?

Me: Another stocky, big-bearded man is more interesting to Emily than I? Sacrilege!

Amazon.com: You’re a fledgling author without a blog? Are you powering your computer by banging two stones together? Do you shave with a broken sliver of shale? Have you considered the shipping costs of the stone tablets on which you probably write?

Me: You mean a book doesn’t market itself? Madness!

Crow: (http://domesticrow.wordpress.com) Dude, you should have a blog. It would be EXTREME.

Me: But I was just messing around… You thought that was writing? (pauses to consider)

Professor of Great Renown: Dan, some of these comments in Manifesto sound like they belong in a blog as opposed to a novel. You’re already at 120,000 words. Cut some of the fat and save it for something else.

Me: Yeah, I’ll just stick these in a .doc file somewhere… We’ll call them “the lost pages”.

–3 Months Later–

Me: Emily? Emily! What the hell did I do with the lost pages?

Em: (smirking) Well, Dan, the lost pages by definition…

Me: (lying) Never mind. Found ’em.

…but I did find them. They were stashed in my Yahoo! Mail account that I’ve had since 1997, and now some poor bastard is going to have to read them.

That poor bastard might be you.

8 Comments

Filed under Rants