“Statistically, if you’re reading this sentence, you’re an oddball. The average American spends three minutes a day reading a book. At this moment, you and I are engaged in an essentially antiquated interaction. Welcome, fellow Neanderthal!”
-Dick Meyer, Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium
My wife says I’m a writing genius. Ha ha ha ha ha ha, snort, ha ha ha ha ha. The only difference
between genius and insanity is location.
Writing is the only business I know where prospective employers expect you to work for free. If you think I jest, just peruse Craig’s List. The assumption that anyone can write may be true, but that’s like saying anyone with a simple understanding of basic high school English could sit down and pump out War and Peace. If you believe the above statement is correct, you wouldn’t mind hiring the fry cook from “Le Greezy Spoone” to be head chef at your five-star restaurant.
Most writers started their education long before adulthood. Not in any sort of institution (pun intended) of higher learning, but in a darkened bedroom with the covers pulled over their heads and a flashlight illuminating the dog-eared pages of a Superman comic or paperback –genre unimportant. One of the bestselling authors of all time, Stephen King, was quoted as saying, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Reading is of paramount importance to a budding writer. Not only does reading about diverse subjects make you painfully aware of what good writing is and isn’t, it gives you a breadth of knowledge that no schooling can teach.
I began reading at a very early age, mainly due to extended hospital stays and childhood health issues. I had so much convalescing time on my hands that I read through the World Book (kids, Google this) encyclopedias from A to Z. Words fascinated me then, and they still do. Most avid readers toy with the idea of writing short stories or perhaps a novel; the next best seller. One night, as I was drifting off I thought, why not me?
The logical next step to becoming a writer is to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Here’s where it gets scary. Doing it is a whole other story. To reiterate what I stated earlier, anyone can write, but can anyone write right? There’s the rub, my friends. Arming yourself with a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a mouth that would make Jonah’s fish jealous might work for the PTA newsletter, but moving a person to action, whether that be tears, or clicking the “BUY NOW” button, are two entirely different animals.
No matter what type of writer you dream of being, homework is essential, unavoidable, and again, involves reading. You must know your craft. Even basics like formatting are required if you want someone to pay you. You must learn how to transition your scribblings into a properly formatted screenplay, so it becomes the next Hollywood blockbuster.
When I started writing, I attempted to emulate the aforementioned Stephen King. Most of my early reading was of the supernatural genre, though I occasionally sidetracked into murder mysteries and some non-fiction biography’s and such, but come on, who doesn’t love monsters. My writing eventually morphed into screenplays, children’s poetry, and on to humorous blogs. Each pivot resulted in research (more reading) and “How To” books (reading), before plunging into the deep end. I think you get the point. If you want to write, read E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.
So, now you’re ready to write. Here’s the writer’s mantra, courtesy of American cartoonist, author, journalist, and playwright, John Thurber, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” In other words, don’t edit as you go, just write. I’ll admit, following this rule is extremely hard for me. I am a fiddler –not the roof variety– but the word “fiddler.” I constantly fiddle. I’m getting better, though. Awareness is the first step. Hi. My name is Kenny Goorabian, and I’m a fiddler.
The main point is: Complete the task. Finishing the work is where most fledgling writers stumble. Save the edits (oh, there will be many) until your masterpiece is complete. Whether you’re writing the next great American novel or the copy on the back of a snack bag, finish it.
People say I’m, crazy
Doing what I’m doing
Well, they give me all kinds of warnings
To save me from ruin
Artists are often thought of as being one syllable short of a Haiku. So, what? It’s the quirks that make them special. Let your “inner crazy” run wild. Don’t be afraid to go there. Some of the finest and funniest writing comes from that little imp you keep chained in the basement. Remember, you are one of a kind. Not another like you. Use that to your advantage.
Get on with it.