8th Day, Write or Wrong: How did you start writing

Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
edited January 28 in Limbo
Sometimes it seems like a huge move from being an ordinary person to being a writer. So how did you start? How did you decide to write something of your own, to put your words out where others might actually see them?

Comments

  • There are two things that I've always done since childhood: I have always sung, and I have always written. I have been fortunate to turn both of those talents into careers.

    I've done some creative writing, but my work is as a journalist. I planned to go to J-school after college, but had an opportunity to sing opera professionally, and took it. A few years later, I came back to it, on a part-time basis; I've been writing full-time since the fall of 1998.


  • I bought myself a typewriter when I was a freshman in high school, and never looked back. Poetry, short fiction, satire, fake news stories à l'Onion, the underground newspaper (which got me suspended -- proud moment!). I just started writing. Most of them are in the drawer, i.e. have never been read by anybody else. But having a blog is a great way to at least take that psychological risk, even if nobody actually reads it. But the best way to become a writer is .... to write. Expect to be bad at first. Quality comes with practice. To paraphrase a song from the 1970s, "Don't worry if it's not good enough for anyone else to read. Just write."
  • Absolutely, MT. In fact, I had a Serious Conversation about that with my Senior Child this evening. She's working at a job that doesn't make use of her talents or intelligence. I suggested that she try writing, since she's done some impressive work in the past; she said she'd have to practice. "So practice," I told her. (I hope she does.)

    Rossweisse // I'm not dead yet

  • For as long as I can remember I woud make things, both physical and imaginary. I always knew I would be a writer. My parents threw a dinner party at one point, when I was 9 or 10 years old, and we children stayed in the family room watching TV because the adult conversation was uninteresting. Someone came downstairs to see us anyway, patting heads and pinching cheeks. She asked me, "And what are you going to be when you grow up?" I said, "A novelist." I do not remember this exchange at all, but when I remet the woman some twenty years later she recounted it to me and I was able to report that my first book was out.
  • I was a passionate and indiscriminate reader as a child and knew from the age of seven that I wanted to write stories (as well as becoming a ballet,dancer, circus performer, astronaut, etc).
  • BrendaClough, that is an awesome story.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I actually came to writing from a completely left-field route - from my PhD.

    I had written an autbiographical piece as a response to my dad dying, many years ago now, and it was probably not a bad piece for what I was wanting to do. But I didn't do anything more. And as a computing graduate my entire prose writing for my degree was one 1500 word report.

    Then I did a theology degree, where I was writing 10K words per module, which was something of a shock (it was 5 assignments of 2K each, so as long as I took them individually, I could cope with that).

    Then I undertook a PhD. At 70K words. And I realised that I might actually be able to put together something of that length. When I left the church, I started putting some of my creative energy into writing some stuff, some ideas I had that I wanted to put down.

    And I discovered that I might not be too bad at it. Especially when I got some of my anger out, and started writing humorous work, which is probably what I am best at.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    As a child I spent most of my time reading, which was the main reason I became a librarian, all those lovely books I would have access to. I did a bit of writing as a child and was always making stories up in my head, but it took till I was in my late fifties for me to accutally start writing these down. First by doing Open University courses and for the last five years by being part of a writing group. Not had anything properly published yet, but apart from entering the odd competition that isn't something I've pursued.
  • Yes reading is a good way in. Like you Sarasa I just lost myself in books as a child. My grand-dad bought me a Woolworths 1/10p (old money) notebook when I was about 9 and kept giving me them as I used them up. And I started writing my own stories. They were derivative and silly but it had started.
    I ended up as a primary teacher and then children's librarian.
    You could write the story of your life to begin with and that will give practice.
    There are web resources that explain about how to play, draft and edit.
    But the best advice I can give is just start and write anything and everything: look out the window and write it down.
    As you gain confidence you might want to join a writers forum. They aren't scary as that's what lots of people do. There might even be one in your local library/community centre,
  • We are told that every person has one book in them. If you have more than one, you go pro, but you don't have to do that. Your one is enough.
    The issue of publishing/marketing is an entirely separate can of worms from the actual writing, and it is not only OK, it is probably helpful to split the two issues. Just like you can swim for pleasure, without being on the national Olympic butterfly-relay team.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    Brenda - Getting published/agents is within the remit for this board,but a different thread. I am sure someone will want to start it at some point (if not, I will).
  • When did I start writing? Good question. Let me first admit I have some sort of writing impediment. Physically I am a slow writer, that is it technically takes a lot of concentration and time for me to write anything down. I am also a fast thinker. Some have suggested that the actual problem is the divergence of the two. Thus I will have mentally edited a sentence several times between me starting to write it and putting in the full stop. Add that I was brought up in the age where it was believed children learnt grammar by writing and there was no need for formal grammar lessons and you have a recipe for disaster. So by the time I left university I was actually pretty paranoid about not being able to writing.

    Then I had mental health difficulties and as I came out of them I found myself compulsively keeping diaries and finding opportunities to write. I was also doing a theological Education course and I started off doing the short answer option but built up the courage to attempt essays. Then I started an OU Masters in Sociology. I got on because I have an M.A. in Mathematics. My instinct was still that I would be unable to write the essays, which would be a great excuse for not doing a PhD. I did not fail a single essay and could score over 80 if I had the inclination. Exams were still interesting. I went to a PhD and joined a creative writing group, so officially I can write. However, where to draw the line between not writing and writing is beyond me. All I know was there was a time when I could not write and now I can.
  • Publishing: I had a friend in my last church who self published on e-books.
    You can also private publish but that costs, although there are plenty of private publishing houses out there.
    From what I know, getting an agent is tough.
    Good luck.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    There will be a thread on "Getting an Agent" at some point. And yes, it is tough.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    I'm still an ordinary person :smile:
  • AndrasAndras Shipmate
    I'm curious about when writer's agents actually came to the fore. Victorian writers don't seem to have had them, but suddenly in the mid-20th Century there they are, as large as life and apparently a sudden must-have for the aspiring writer.

    Getting one seems to be entirely a matter of luck. You need to remember that they all have day jobs working for their current clients, and reading your MS is something they may or may not get round to in the evening when what they really want to do is to have a glass of wine and put their feet up, rather than delve into the ever-growing slush pile.

    My advice would be to get into a good - I stress that adjective - Writers' Group and ask for recommendations both ways - ie once you've shown the members of the Group that you can write, someone there may be able to introduce you to their agent, or at least suggest somone that you can name-drop with.

    As so often, it's Who you know that counts.

  • When I graduated from college with a degree in English lit, I had thought I'd go straight to grad school, but life happened, and I needed a job. So what marketable skills did I have? I could write. I've been a writer ever since. That first writing job was at a little geotechnical and environmental engineering firm. I wrote proposals and engineering reports and a monthly newsletter. My next job was with a data communication company, where I wrote hardware and software manuals. And so on through the years.

    I also wrote a children's picture book, when my children were small. I tried to find a publisher, but the ones I was willing to send it to told me it was too niche. So I waited 20 years or so, and found a micropress, and that book (Catherine's Pascha) came out in 2015. My second book (The Saint Nicholas Day Snow, another picture book) came out late last year.

    The picture books are a great deal of fun. But the technical writing still pays the bills.
  • Thanks, Josephine!
  • GwaiGwai Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    I tell myself stories because they are interesting. I write them because I think others will agree. I wrote my first book when I should have been writing college papers. I guess it wasn't bad for a college book, and it was a good concept but that's about all I would say about it. I plan to rework it and publish it someday. My second book is much better. But right now putting food on the table is so much more pressing than publishing. Sigh.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    I can't remember when I first started writing or when I decided that poetry was for me. However, I remember a very much younger me sitting alone at the kitchen table at night with a small lamp and the rest of my family in the living room. I wrote in lined notebooks and listened to a radio as I did so.

    I wish I still had those notebooks.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    Like Josephine, most of my writing has been technical stuff.

    I trained as a scientist. In my second job after PhD, I was a young lecturer asked to produce a course on what was then a new and exciting topic, namely renewable energy. There were no textbooks a the right level (senior undergraduate) , only specialist research papers on individual facets of the subject. So I developed a series of lectures drawing on those papers but simplified to the level that my students might understand. Eventually this turned into a commercially published textbook (co-authored with one colleague), which was I think the first on the subject at that level, with the writing and rewriting mostly done in university vacations.

    That was in the 1980s, and my wife reckons that she produced 3 children in the time my colleague and I took to produce one book, so her "productivity" was much better than mine! The book is now in its third edition , with a fourth in preparation.

    Two lessons I draw from this experience are (1) you would be very lucky to live off your earnings as a writer and (2) it nearly always takes several drafts to get a good product.
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