Spent some time last night, talking shop with a talented writer friend . I’ve been struggling for a few weeks now with my writing and it was good to talk with someone who at least understands some of my hopes and fears.
You see, I have always loved reading. Ever since i was a child, I loved getting to open a new book. When I was younger and we lived in the city, my brother and I used to walk to the local library, which was a children’s library. These were simpler days, when two ten year olds could walk a mile or so by themselves. The first thing I remember seeing when I walked in, since these were the days before computers, was the large wooden card catalog across the middle of the main floor. The tall windows, over the bookcases, let plenty of light into the high-ceilinged room but the best days were rainy days, when we could spend hours browsing and reading books, listening to the rain patter on those windows outside.
During my thirteenth year, my siblings went to summer day camp, but I spent each day at my grandparents house. I think i was too old to go to the same program so while my parents worked, i was left to my own devices under my grandparents’ pretty minimal supervision. There was a public pool right down the street (ah, the days before budget cuts!) and I knew several kids from the area since we visited there often. On the whole, not a bad way to spend summer.
But the best part for me, was the fact that there was a library just a few blocks away. Again, i could spend hours in the air conditioning, reading. This was the summer I devoured Ian Fleming’s James Bond series, Anna Karenina, Fitzgerald plus a bunch of WWII spy thrillers. I loved spies. All we had at home were a few Sidney Sheldon and Joseph Wambaugh books, which I also read much to my parents’ dismay, but at the library I had so many choices. I could explore anywhere and anywhen.
It was natural then, as I went into high school, a new school in the suburbs, away from all the friends and people I knew that i would withdraw into books and writing. I did make friends but never easily. Books were much better friends. They didnt care if you werent a great party socializer or if you didnt wear fashionable clothes.
Writing let me express myself and i threw myself into my English classes and began my first novel on an old manual typewriter (we wouldnt get a computer for another 2 years). I will admit it was a bad ripoff of a bad scifi movie but at least I tried. I wrote poetry. At first it was all about love and beauty but soon, as I got more involved in alternative music and the more fringe-types at school, it got more angsty yes but also I became more influenced by the great poets, especially T.S. Eliot. My friends and I would sit by candlelight in the woods, reading poetry, discussing books (Sadly, my love of poetry didnt last long after high school).
So writing and reading. My two great loves. I turned away from writing for a time in college as I tried to find out what I wanted in life. But something drew me back and by my mid-20s I was writing again.
Unfortunately, I’ve never had formal training, although I attended a weekly workshop/critique group run by an author for several years, under whose tutelage I learned many things. I don’t know why I never took writing classes. I thing I thought it wasnt something that could be taught. It was something to be learned by doing yes, but you didnt need a teacher, a class, a grading system to teach you. So maybe I missed out on something important.
But to the current day. I read great books and I wonder if i will ever write something so wonderful. How can i ever write any thing so smoothly plotted, so wonderfully populated with characters someone could care about, so smart, so entertaining.
Even blogs. I read entertaining blogs and I question my own skills when I see such insight.
What dont I know? What am I missing? What should my next step be? I really dont have any talent. Who am i kidding?
All these thoughts, rattling around my head. Strange little creatures they are.
(to be continued)