Learning to Write
“It is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market. hares have no time to read.” Anita Brookner
A lot of posts about writing lately. I am afraid that my style of writing isn’t in any way like I speak. I have a face for radio and a voice for silent pictures. I started writing so I could be both silent and hidden. I don’t always write about what I know either. I often write about what I think I know. The difference isn’t subtle. I often struggle to make a single point, surrounding it with a lot of information and raging rhetoric. Most of the stuff, well planned, never gets finished because I generally only write something in reaction to something else. The well-planned stuff gets shelved. The inspired stuff gets finished.
I understand my limitations but can’t resist the attempt to exceed them. Putting together a few words to achieve an impact has been a skill for some time. It started out in speech class in high school. I was terrible in speech class. I couldn’t speak off the cuff without stammering, so I would write everything out and read it. My speech teacher hated it. I even joined Toastmasters to no avail. I speak like I write, stop, start, backup, repeat, back up again, change the wording and try again. I have the words. They are all sitting there in a pile, waiting to surface, but when I reach down and pick one up, it is inevitably the wrong one. So, I toss it back and grab another.
Back in the olden days of pens and pencils…you know, the dark ages, I discovered that I could write stuff about stuff and make it sound plausible. I remember writing book reports for waitresses in bars for drinks and hoped for phone numbers. Sometimes, it was even books I had read. I was attracted to waitresses because they were generally hired for their looks and my father used to tell me, “never date a woman you meet in a bar unless she works there.” When I asked him why, he told me that they (waitresses) were the only single women who had any business being there and they had a job. Daddy was a born in a different time.
I have read books about writing. I have taken classes about writing. I have listened to the experts on writing. I have never paid much attention. While I don’t write how I talk, I do write how I think…and what I think. I think, generally, I get my point across. I seek to entertain. I am a firm believer that if I can get a smile out of the reader, my viewpoint has a better chance of surviving the read.
When I was in school, I loved the essay questions. Other questions had right and wrong answers. Essay questions afforded me the opportunity to be wrong, yet clever. I could get extra credit if the professor laughed. I also liked being provocative. At a point in my writing life, I wrote “hit” letters to the editor for a Congressman of my acquaintance. He would get attacked in the newspaper and my job (unpaid), was to write a response to the editorial or letter writer, poking fun at their original comments. I was good at it. The Congressman thought it was great and would send me ‘thank you’ notes. Acknowledgement was my payment.
I stopped writing op-eds and letters to the editor when I started traveling for a living. I switched over to blog posts, the occasional magazine article on some technology I was working on and my books. I have never made any money writing. The kinds of things that might have made me a paid writer didn’t really interest me much. I found technical writing…well, technical and my books I wrote because I wanted a record of how my brain worked for my descendants to read someday. I also wanted to see if I could do it. Writing something book length is a challenge. I’ve done it five times, so the challenge is proven.
All the writing advice is great for people who are serious about writing. I have never been serious about it. I do it for the sheer joy, setting aside the seriousness for others to concern themselves with. I break fundamental rules. I produce stories filled with incomplete sentences and I dangle the participles off the end of split infinitives. I do wish there had been word processing software when I was young. I’d rule the world by now had that been the case.
Just so you know, I did get some phone numbers out of waitresses. I met my wife at a birthday party and not at a bar.
Phillip J Hubbell is a writer/author, project manager and job seeker living in the American Midwest.