Nothing to See
Advance warning: This is essentially stream of consciousness writing. It’s unedited. If you become bored with it…well, you’ve been warned.
I went out last night and bought my first-ever copy of Writer’s Market. Other than the fact that someone told me to do it, I’m still not sure why.
I think it’s because I’d like to try to become a writer.
In one sense, I’ve always been a writer. As a young child, I wrote stories about Snoopy and the Red Baron. The Red Baron’s appearances in my stories were primarily limited to his being shot down in flames. But Snoopy! That dog could drink! (As a child, I don’t know what I thought he drank, but he was forever partying when not shooting down the Red Baron.) Sadly, the last time I saw my bundle of stories I had stuck them under the seat of our Rambler station wagon on one of our cross-country moves. I don’t know what ever happened to them after that.
The first “publication” that I know of came when I was in the eighth grade. I wrote a poem titled “My Imaginary Tree by Me.” I still remember some of the lines (heck, this might be the entire poem for all I remember):
Here the tree stands all alone,
All the kids have gone home.
See his limbs all torn and tattered,
All his leaves have far been scattered.
How he wishes he could play,
Each and every single day.
But he knows this cannot be
For he is just…
…my imaginary tree.
In addition to writing the poem, I had drawn a picture of a particularly pathetic-appearing leaveless tree. The poem was printed, superimposed over the tree, in a newsletter put out at Woodrow Wilson Jr. High School in Hanford, back in the days when education still mattered in California and schools had money for such things.
As the years went by, I wrote more poetry. A couple of specimens can be found here and here.
Despite appearances, the first of the linked poems there was not inspired by any female or any broken relationship. At the time it was written, I was yet to kiss my first girl! What happened was that I was reading a thesaurus (yes, I know) and found the phrase “a debt which cancels all others” as an alternative for “suicide.” Something about the phrase struck me and, before I knew it, I’d written this poem. Of course, I used to read a lot of Edgar Cayce back then, so I may merely have been channeling some dead poet. The second link is to a weird “poetic fragment” that popped into my head one day and I wrote it down. Yes, therapy would probably be a good idea.
I wrote a large number of other poems over the years, but I’m not sure I’ve saved many of them. Not a few were written for the first love of my life, Elizabeth Yvonne Adams, whom I married when we were both too young to know better and who left before either of us could grow up. (Primarily my fault, btw.) In fact, after she and I went our separate ways, other than whiny journal entries, I didn’t write again for a very long time. (And I don’t believe I ever wrote any more poetry.)
Yet writing, in one form or another, has stayed a big part of my life through the years. I’m loathe to state the cliché that “it’s in my blood,” but I suspect this is true: in spite of the fact that I love “having written,” the act of writing itself is usually quite difficult, painful and when I’m done I feel as if I’ve actually lost a lot of blood. Is it so strange to believe it was “in my blood” and I then bled all over the page?
For years, beginning around the time Yvonne and I separated, I kept journals. (It’s occasionally amazing to me to go back and read them. It’s like someone else’s life!) And, at least with the way I wrote them, journals can be quite painful to maintain. For one thing — this is no doubt very OCD of me — I had a “rule” that I was to avoid crossing things out or making corrections at all costs. And since I also have ADD and usually did my writing at Carl’s Jr. restaurants, this could create some of the most amazing difficulties. When I was distracted and “lost my place,” I’d come back to a partial word or sentence and think, “Now what?” But rules are rules: I had to figure a way to complete the sentence, even if I couldn’t remember what I was trying to say, in a way that did not disrupt the flow of writing.
In some ways, although I no longer adhere to it, I actually think that rule made me a better writer.
When the Internet came along, I more or less abandoned journaling. Instead, I constantly revised a personal website (winkola.com; no longer in existence, though I’ve kept the URL) that I maintained. This was before “blogging” existed — or, at least, before it was called “blogging.” But I do recall for awhile maintaining a page where I manually input entries (without titles) in chronological order. Like a journal. And when blogging software was created, I started to experiment with it, eventually starting up Unspun™.
Although my blogging is different and less personal than my journals, it is difficult for me. When I maintained Unspun™, I began a habit of adding incredible numbers of links to my articles, which added to the difficulty of writing. On the legal blogs I own today — Fresno Criminal Defense and Probable Cause: The Legal Blog with the Really Low Standard of Review — I probably don’t link as much as I did with Unspun™, but I still usually do quite a bit of research (and citation).
In addition, I do quite a bit of legal writing, not only for my own clients, but for other attorneys.
In spite of all this writing, I have only a few publication credits. One (long lost) is for a marketing article I wrote for medical transcriptionists that appeared in MT Monthly. Another — of which I’m fairly proud because of the analogy I employed and because I tuckerized numerous family and friends (although until being introduced to Susan Krinard I didn’t know it was called “tuckerization”) — was a chapter for a book on Migrating from NT 4 to Windows 2000. Then there are a few op-ed pieces in the local newspaper and one blog article which Fresno’s Community Alliance kindly asked permission to reprint in their paper. (I can’t remember if it was this one, or this one, or some other one.)
As I’ve come to understand myself more, I realize that I have a number of weaknesses that make a “regular job” no fun at all. Not even where I’m “self-employed.” On the other hand, most of those very same weaknesses would probably work well for writing. And I do have more than a few story ideas I’d like to explore. So after talking with an actual writer, I think it’s time for me to stop pretending, dabbling, or whatever we should call it, and try to approach writing more seriously.
But note that I said “most of” my weaknesses might benefit me as a writer. One has kept me from actually attempting this before: I’m not the most self-disciplined person in the world. (And there’s that danged ADD issue.) I can do pretty well focusing on something for “awhile,” but then I tend to not do as well with following through. And, apparently, “real writers” write daily.
My problem is that I tend to write only when I feel like I have something worth saying. Which isn’t daily. Sometimes not even weekly. Not a few people will probably say I never have anything worth saying! But I’m going to ignore those people.
In fact, for at least a little while, I’m going to ignore myself when I say such things. From what I’m told, the trick is to sit down and write. If you don’t feel like you have anything to say, you write anyway. (I’ve even been told, “Just write that you don’t feel like you have anything to say and go from there.”)
You can blame this blog entry on my first attempt to adopt that attitude. Starting now, starting here, I’m going to force myself to write something every day, even if it’s only to write that I have nothing to write.
If you don’t like it, blame Susan Krinard. Or, better yet, just move along. There’s nothing here to see anyway.