In school, I was taught how to write essays–literary analysis–how to cite sources and in-text citations. I learned how to dissect poems, short stories and novels–and then write about my findings and what the pieces could possibly mean, backing it up with evidence from the text.
I learned MLA and APA formatting. I learned about literary approaches to historical and literary texts that have been around for centuries. I learned how to bridge literature to history and the events that took place during the author’s lifetime or time of publication. I learned about social context and why certain texts stick around, what they say about human nature, why we study them in the first place.*
But I never asked.
Was all this knowledge necessary? It better have been. Credentials make us look smart, make us look accomplished. I’m not taking out loans to get a degree for nothing. I’m not stressing over research papers for nothing. I’m not pursuing a Master’s degree for nothing. I’m not hoping to make a career out of writing for nothing.
Years of being told what to write, it’s definitely freeing when you get to choose what to right. You make your own rules… create your worlds, your characters… invent problems for them to solve… put them in the maze and watch them go. I wasn’t taught how to do that. I’m teaching myself.
I’m not sorry if this blog post appears too… abstract compared to my previous posts. Advice on writing? I can’t give that. No one can. The only advice I have to offer, I already gave it here. That’s all I have, so far.
Have you looked up how to write? Have you seen all the books that claim to teach you the surefire way of writing? Especially fiction?
Yes–we have the fundamentals: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution and all that. Technical stuff. Indisputable stuff.
There are many tips out there from published authors. Writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, magazine/journal articles. Editors and publishers of anthologies, professors of writing and literature…. All of these people give out advice, create lists of tips, essays of proven methods, success stories.
I can’t claim to have read them all. I didn’t even try and here is why:
n o t h i n g w o r k e d f o r
Please… don’t forget that writing is another form of expression, its own art. We have painters, musicians, dancers–which create art. Digital artists, sketchers, the people who create electronic music, the people design clothing, the people that paint murals, the people who lie in bed and sing that little melody they just made up, the people who doodle in the margins, the people who like to build things with their hands, sculpt, create–
The people who use their imagination make something… give life to something…. We don’t teach children how to draw. We just give them the crayons and the slip of paper and say, ‘Here. Draw on this paper.’ There are no guidelines or prompts, no bowl of fruit to recreate.
They just do it.
When it came to writing, I just did it. When I was fourteen, I wrote my first story. I don’t think I looked up any directions, any guides, any anything. I just wrote down whatever came to mind. I didn’t try to overthink it, and I don’t believe I hesitated.
Was it crappy? Definitely, yes. Oh my God–it is terrible! To this day, I have not read it. I can’t get past the first page without cringing and laughing. My 14-year-old self had no real idea of character and voice yet.
You can find the first book here. This first story was going to be a 4-book saga, all Twilight-style and everything, except I’ve not finished the fourth one; war is really difficult to write well. One day, I hope to rewrite it.
As for now, with a few unpublished manuscripts under my belt, with hundreds of unfinished stories, with one story being published in a magazine (more on that later), I realized that I never took someone else’s advice on how to write. I looked at the what-to-do and what-not-to-do lists.
“Don’t edit while you write.” ← Uh, too freaking bad. The squiggly red, blue, and green lines on Word documents irritate me.
“Outline first.” ← Sorry, but I think I’ve had enough homework.
“Set a schedule for writing.” ← I don’t know what I’ll be doing 1 o’clock tomorrow, let alone next week.
“Find a quiet space to write.” ← To tell everyone to shut up will not do me any favors.
I’m still trying to figure out this blogging thing. I’ve tried it before, but I didn’t have much to say or share then. I probably still don’t.
But writers gon’ write. That’s just what we do. Published or not, experienced or not… when you write….
*receives envelope, opens it*
*clears throat* The results are in:
You ARE a writer!
*As a writer of fiction, I feel it’s important to know what’s been done and how. To be a writer, an author, means trying to join a long history filled with writers that have changed the game again and again. Understand and respect the art.