First, a housekeeping note. I recently added a new page to this blog. You will find it in the Menu listings above as “My Fiction”. I will at random moments add bits and pieces of my writings under that topic.
Given the complaining I did (see here and here) about the difficulties of the October Platform Challenge by Robert Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest, one would quite logically assume that with the conclusion of the month-long effort, I would settle down to the relative calm of getting my twice weekly posts for this blog out on time and concentrate on my fiction writing.
Nope! Not for me. I had to take on not one, but two new ‘challenges’. In the innocence of the uninformed, I signed up over at Blogging University for Blogging 101 and Writing 101. Being a complete ‘newbie’ to this hitherto unknown world of blogging, naturally I’m eager to learn whatever I can about blogging and the intricacies of using WordPress. Thus, an introductory course from WordPress on how to use the site is a natural first step.
Further, I hope I never get to the place where I think I have nothing to learn about the art and craft of writing. I have found that I have learned new things revisiting very basic creative writing texts, materials, etc. that I first encountered years ago. So, if WordPress and Blogging U offer writing classes, I will start with the first one and work my way through the list knowing there will be something for me to learn even (especially?) in an introductory class.
Before continuing on, I need to digress momentarily. In setting up this blog, I devoted time and thought to the “About” page and the information presented there as to ‘who I am‘. It is, admittedly, sketchy, but it says what I want it to say. You will find essentially the same information wherever on the web you might find me — Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Scribophile, and others — and when my website at JayLeeward.com is finally completed and online, it will reflect the same data, or lack thereof. This may change in the future, but for now, I am satisfied with my ‘bio’.
Back to Blogging University and my two new ‘challenges’. You may well guess my dismay when I discovered that Day One at both courses presented essentially the same assignment. Write a blog post telling the world who you are and why you write. Further, it became immediately clear that both courses entailed daily, or near daily, blog posts. Aha! Small, dark clouds on the immediate horizon.
Above I noted my intention to post twice weekly to this blog — Tuesday and Saturday. My little digression above deals with my bio. Gentle reader, my ancestry is as mixed as you can imagine. I am the stereotypical All-American ‘mongrel’, with bits of this, that, and the other thrown into the ‘melting pot’. However, one of my grandfathers was born late in the nineteenth century in Wales, and I have some of the stereotypical attributes of that Welsh ancestry. No, I can’t sing a lick, unlike others from Wales such as Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, or Englebert Humperdinck, nor do I have the sonorous voice and acting skills of a Richard Burton or Anthony Hopkins. But even a Missouri mule takes a backseat to the stubbornness of a Welshman, and I inherited a full measure of that trait.
Thus, although my classes at Blogging U are calling for daily posts to this blog and a rewrite of my ‘About’ page, I shall inflict neither of those on you. My posts will continue to be published on Tuesday and Saturday. My bio will remain (for now, anyway) as currently posted. However…
To demonstrate that even a Welshman can compromise — just a little! — I am going to take this opportunity and prompt from my classes to explore why I write. And if a little bit about who I am creeps into the conversation, so be it.
Beginning at the beginning, I am the person who reads the back of the cereal box at breakfast table if no other reading material is available. I can’t remember when I could not, and did not, read. And I read everything! Fiction and non-fiction, textbooks and novels, exciting escape into worlds of imagination and ‘dry as dust’ scholarly tomes. I have always read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Again, as far back as I can remember, I marveled particularly at the imagination and creativity of the authors of the fiction I read. While enjoying their flights of imagination and living vicariously in their created worlds, I also wished I could do the same. It seemed to me that the most glorious possible occupation was that of the writer. I also knew that I could never be like those writers. I did not have the talent, the creativity, the imagination to create new worlds, new characters, new stories.
Fast forward much of a lifetime and I found myself in a position to exit the nine-to-five workday world. I looked about me at my personal library and gave thanks that now I had unlimited time to read! It was sheer bliss. But that long ago wish to be like the writers whose works I so enjoyed persisted and I began to question my lifetime assumption that I could not do what they did. What if…?
I enrolled at a community college nearby and took an introductory class in creative writing. and then another, and another. To say I was blown away is a great understatement. I was stunned, shocked, amazed — and ultimately, hooked! I was very fortunate in that my first instructor in that initial class was both a skilled teacher and a published fiction author. It was he who led me to understand that writing is both art and craft. The craft of writing, like any other craft, is a matter of techniques and tools of the trade. Whether it be carpentry or macrame, sculpture or accounting, there are certain rules to learn, tricks and techniques to master, and tools one can use to accomplish the task. Learning these things and practicing them diligently will give one the ability to operate in the craft of one’s choice, whether as a cabinet-maker, sculptor, accountant, or writer. Please note. I said, ‘operate‘! I did not say ‘excel‘.
And this is where the art of writing comes into the equation. Art, in writing as in music, painting, sculpture, and elsewhere, requires not only practiced techniques, but talent. Talent is something that so far as I know, cannot be taught nor learned. Talent is what separates Shakespeare, Mark Twain, or Stephen King from most students in a creative writing class. It is, or it is not. And in the field of writing, talent is most often determined for a writer, not by himself, but by his readers.
I realized early on that I did not really worry about the talent part of the equation. The craft part was sufficient challenge for me. So I work to perfect my craft — not that I expect to ‘perfect’ my efforts at craft, but rather I strive toward that goal. Perhaps, even more important than my desire to strive toward learning my craft, I discovered along the way that I was having more fun than I could have possibly imagined. The more time I devote to learning the skills of this craft, the more fun I have.
There is one downside to all that fun, however. I have also discovered that ‘fun’ is addicting (see here). The more ‘fun’ I have, the more I ‘need’ that fun. Now, at this stage of the game, if I go too long without my writing ‘fun’, I miss it greatly and suffer withdrawal pains. I really do need to spend time writing, whether it be this blog or my latest fiction. I feel better when I write. And I’m just selfish enough to choose to ‘feel better’ as often and as much as I can.