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Why I Became A Writer

August 12, 2011 3 comments

Ever since I posted my short story on Amazon, I’ve been thinking about writing a lot. I realized I don’t really talk about writing very much on this blog, despite how important it is to me. I’ve been more open about it lately, what with my musings on self-publishing and learning a valuable lesson about my writing style from fanfiction (I… swear that’s not a joke, really), but outside of that I haven’t said much. I wanted to change that, so I thought I should talk about a very significant moment in my life: when I realized I wanted to be a writer (and might have a decent shot at being one).

I had always been a daydreamer. I always liked writing silly stories or doodling poorly drawn comics. It was basically how I entertained myself. Whenever I was in an English class and we had to write a story, I always loved it.

In my junior year of high school, I found out we had a Creative Writing class. Since I loved stories, I thought it would be fun to sign up for it. I didn’t really have much ambition to be a writer at the time (thought I always had a lingering hope in the back of my mind). My main motivation to join the class was to just have a good time and probably get an easy A in the class (I was kind of lazy like that during my high school years).

Our first assignment in that class was to write a short story loosely based on an actual event. It seemed simple enough. I wasn’t very worried about it … until our teacher, Mr. Brockwell, mentioned that we had to read our work aloud to the entire class. Not just for this project, but everything we had to write had to be read aloud.

I was quite nervous. I was not a good public speaker back then. I know a lot of people are afraid of public speaking, but I really had a problem with it in school. One on occasion, I almost failed an assignment because I became paralyzed with fear during an oral presentation. Back then, public speaking was probably my third biggest fear, right behind death and snakes.

Why did it have to be snakes?!

Seriously, snakes are freaking scary. But I digress.

I realized before I could worry about that, first I had to actually write the story. I figured I could think of a way to weasel out of reading it aloud later.

Even though we were supposed to base it on a true event, I had just planned on making something up wholesale, until I remembered a very tragic thing that had happened around the same time.

A friend of a friend had an alcoholic father who lost his job and sadly killed himself around the time I started the class. Needless to say, it was a very terrible experience for her. Even though I didn’t know her personally, I remember being very affected by the story once I heard it. Having an alcoholic father myself, I guess I could relate to her.Even though my relationship with my dad wasn’t exactly great at the time, I never wanted anything like that to happen to him. I tried to imagine how she must have felt, but I didn’t think I could really grasp it.

I ended up writing a very short first person story loosely based on what had happened. It showed the main character having a tumultuous childhood with an alcoholic father, but still loving him, then ending with the tragedy of the father killing himself. The girl herself felt guilty, because even though she often thought she hated her father and wanted him to die or go away, she never really meant it. I probably ended up basing the story more on my own personal experiences than the actual event itself.

I had a feeling it was a moving story, but I couldn’t really tell. At that stage, it was hard for me to objective about my work. Still, I thought it was very good.

But I still dreaded having to read it to everyone.

When the assignment was due, Mr. Brockwell actually took us all outside and we sat in a circle to read our stories in the sunlight. Mr. Brockwell was cool like that.

After it became obvious to me that I wasn’t going to get out of reading it aloud, I actually volunteered as one of the first to read. Might as well just get it over with, I thought.

Mr. Brockwell saw I was really nervous. While I was trying to get the courage to read it, he smiled and said,

“You know, my college professor used to say a beer or two before having to read aloud helped.”

Everybody laughed.

I took a deep breath, held the story in front of my face, and just read it from the page so I wouldn’t have to look anyone in the eye when I read it. Luckily it was a fairly short story that didn’t take a long time to read. If I had written something really long, I probably would have had cardiac arrest.

When I finished, everyone was silent. Realizing the story was first person, I hastily added, “I um… should probably mention that didn’t actually happen to me.”

This wasn’t entirely true, since part of the story was from my own experience, but I wasn’t comfortable letting them know that.

“Oh, good. I almost felt horrible about making that beer joke,” Mr. Brockwell said. “Good job!”

Mr. Brockwell and everyone else gave very polite claps and everyone agreed it was pretty moving. I noticed one of the girls in our class looked like she was about to cry. I remember this very clearly since… I never knew I could write something that could affect someone so much.

We listened to everyone else read their stories. Some were good, some … well, not so good. Everyone else in the class thought mine was the best of the lot.

One of my friends in the class walked up to me after everyone was done.

“That was a really good story,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was gonna cry or what.” The guy in question wasn’t the type to admit something moved him, so I took it to heart.

“Thank you,” I said.

That was the first time I had read what I had written to anyone. It was also the first time I ever felt confident in my ability to write.

I did very well in the class. Near the end of the year, I remember Mr. Brockwell telling me, “You’ve got the gift.” Probably the best thing any teacher had ever told me. Up until that time, writing was something I only did for school, but after that I started writing fanfiction. I started trying to write short stories and began taking it seriously. I wanted to write stories that moved everyone, just like I managed to do with the kids in class.

I wish I still had a copy of that story I wrote. I only wrote one copy on loose-leaf paper and lost track of it when I moved to a new house. It’s a shame, but I still remember it. It was really the start of everything, when I decided I wanted to be a writer. Even now, I consider that day to be the defining moment of my life.

So, there’s my story. Sorry if it got kinda sappy. To anyone reading, was there any defining moment in your life when you found out who you wanted to be? If so, please share it. I’d love to hear about it.

Categories: story time, writing

It’s Good to Have Friends

So sometimes you’re helped out in ways you don’t really expect.

Since my last post, I’ve been considering putting one of my short stories on Amazon’s self-publishing platform and selling it for 99 cents a download. I’ve been trying to send this short story to different publications for months now, but it hadn’t been accepted. The story is called “Speedster,” which is sort of a dark superhero story about a normal girl whose brother is wanted for murder and is addicted to a drug that gives the user superhuman speed. It takes place in a world where using something that gives you superpowers is not only frowned upon by almost everyone, but also dangerous and addictive to the user. I really liked the story and thankfully so did most of the beta readers, so I thought this would be a good way to put it out there and see how well it would do.

I used to avoid letting anyone but my closest friends know I write a lot, which admittedly doesn’t make a lot of sense since my whole goal in life it to have a lot of people read and enjoy my stories. I’ve been trying to be more open about it to hopefully have more people read my work once I make it available for people. So I posted on Twitter and Facebook asking if people would be interested in a story I put out. The first person to respond was Mike, one of my managers at work. He was very supportive about putting the story on Amazon and seemed interested in the idea. It was pretty encouraging on its own, but what I didn’t expect was what happened the next day.

The next day, both Mike and I happened to be working and, unbeknownst to me, Mike let a lot of people at work know about what I was doing. Normally this would be the kind of thing I’d feel embarrassed about, but this wasn’t the case. I really didn’t expect the reaction I got. Pretty much everyone in the store who heard about it was asking me what the story was about and all seemed very supportive. Most of them said they would download it once I put it out. As an author who has never been published so far, this was very encouraging. It was honestly touching. I was secretly afraid that once I published the short story, nobody would buy it or care. Now at least I know quite a few of the people I work with will read it.

So, if anyone from my work is reading this, I just want to thank you guys for the reaction. Especially Mike for helping spread the word the way he did.

I want to return the favor a bit. Mike is the front man for a band called Mikey Rukus. Its actually a pretty badass band. They’ve done a bunch of custom entrance music for mixed martial arts fighters and lots of other songs as well. You can check out his songs for free on his soundclick page, but if you enjoy it, I do urge you to purchase his music as well. So yeah, check it out. It’s all good stuff.

Anyway, I’ll keep you guys posted for when I roll out the short story on Amazon. Right now I’m working with one of my friends to get cover art for it, so I’m hoping to be able to get that straightened out very soon. As soon as its ready, I’ll be sure to let all you guys know. Thanks again for all the support.