When I’m lying in bed at night, trying to fall asleep, I write scenes in my head. I can see them as they’d be written out – title in bold, paragraph structure, dialogue enclosed in quotes. I understand that this is not normal.
My father is a poet, and my first attempts at writing were in that genre. I can vividly remember a poem I wrote early on about the Black Hills. Not completely understanding the timeline of my dad’s history lesson, I thought the Hills were currently swarming with illegal gold prospectors. Outraged, I penned the following:
The Black Hills! The Black Hills!
They’re trying to take the Black Hills!
With all that junk so shallow
Just beneath the surface
They’re trying to take the Black Hills
For less than they are worth.
I think I was trying to rhyme “surface” and “worth.” It went on, but, perhaps mercifully, I have lost the second page. More importantly, that was my first attempt at expressing a strong emotion through the written word.
During college I began the next phase of my writing life – learning my craft. At that point I was an unreformed academic and intellectual so my first thought was to get a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Ahhh! The structure of class and study, produce and critique. But, given the amount of time and money involved in such a pursuit, I had to be realistic.
I bought books on the aspects of writing that mystified me. First came books on editing. And the floodgates opened. The more I explored, the less I knew. Next came “Show, don’t tell” and I figured out why my first novel was so bad. “Why show when you can tell?” was my unconscious motto. “I want the reader to get it! Here – here’s what you’re supposed to think.” It seems that this writing style produces a bad novel.
I read every book I could get my hands on – editing, show-don’t-tell, characterization, plot, scene structure, sentence structure, syntax, anything and everything. I devoured books by other authors talking about their own writing process. I talked for hours to other writer friends.
So now I am where I am. Where is that? I’m not sure that’s the right question. A better one: What are you doing now?
Still reading. Still studying. And, most importantly, writing. Every day.