Monday, April 2, 2018
Starting off as a writer
Hello. To start off this blog, my first few posts will be simple. Each will be a personal answer to some of the more common questions asked by members of the Writers' Workshop I facilitate and the other groups where I am a member. These questions are surprisingly common, and while many people have quietly pulled me aside and asked these questions in a hushed tone saved for their personal secrets, I am sure many more felt them but stayed silent. When I started my mission to be a writer, those very same questions came to my mind. Now I offer these answers in hopes that they move someone further along in being a writer and developing their process.
Q: What prompted you to really get into writing as something more than a hobby?
A: A sharp, stabbing pain in my right side.
It might sound like I’m joking, but in all seriousness, that was the thing that pushed me to pursue the art of creative writing. Here’s how:
By my early thirties, I was settled into a career in economics. Like most people, I dabbled with writing in high school and in college, but I never really took it anywhere (also like most people). My job involved writing, but this was research-oriented, which was intellectualized, grounded in a foundation of theories, data, and calculations, and written in a straightforward manner.
And it thrilled me.
It may sound strange, but at my core I am all about structure. Mathematics, calculation, the dependability of rigorous science. My mind is built to follow paths, and they never let me down. Solving a formula never breaks from the rules with a surprise plot twist. In that way, hard science satisfies me. Reliable. As dependable as my favorite shoes. And this rigid, structured career also gave me at the time a corner office, a certain amount of respect, and a paycheck that lasted longer than needed. Everything was set.
Then I had a sharp, stabbing pain in my right side.
Inexplicable, unprovoked, and out of nowhere, I stood up at my desk and the pain pushed the breath right out of me. I staggered, my legs weakened, and I braced myself from falling. It felt like a rib stabbed me through my right lung. I caught my breath after that brief attack and tried to figure out what happened, but after a few short breaths, the pain hit again. And again.
I went to the hospital, and a battery of tests indicated trouble with my liver. And not the “sometimes these things happen” trouble. This was serious.
Over the next month, I lost thirty pounds and only ate medication. After more than a few nervous nights, my condition finally stabilized. I regained my strength and returned to my corner office and respectable job. However, I started thinking about things other than work. I thought about my story. My many stories. Every single life event that moved me, shaped me, changed me – all these stories that would’ve vanished if my liver story hadn’t ended well.
In my world of calculations, life events didn’t really have a place. But now my mind demanded these stories be given a place – a big place. Those stories needed to be recognized, to be heard. They needed a voice; something more than the language of fitting situations into formulas, assembling worlds across a spreadsheet, or plugging experiences into databases. No amount of numbers and functions could ever express my story. Such a task required words. A lot of them. And not neat, operational, sterile words such as “equaling,” “factored,” or “correlating.” I needed feelings, emotions, metaphors and similes, insights and speculation to do justice to any of my stories.
And that’s what prompted me to get into writing.