Lent Post #10: Ramblings on Writing

I’m continuing the trend of writing about things that I never really wanted to write about, mostly because I personally feel underqualified. Or at least, I used to until further reflection made it clear that that wasn’t necessarily the case. Today, I’m going to talk about writing. Before I get into that, let me tell you a little bit about my experience. Like most people who consider themselves writers, I started writing fairly early in life. As is true with most kids, it started out with little stories about superheroes and villains and all the things I used to enjoy watching on TV and reading in comic books, most of which I still do. It all started with this haphazard blog that you’re reading this piece on after that, at least that’s what I thought.

It turns out that the gap between my childhood and my book, and on to this blog, is even smaller than I thought. In middle school, I had a drama teacher who wanted us to write our own plays, and we did a series of short skits based on my suggestion of using Aesop’s fables as source materials. I was heavily involved in writing all of those. And then, in high school, I took up writing lyrics for aspiring performers who liked to sing. Two of them (however short-lived), ended up with record deals. And after that, I found myself primarily using the title of tutor to describe what I did. This period primarily consisted of correcting other people’s grammatical and research mistakes in essays on various subjects, but at times I found myself rewriting entire papers because they were just too messy to be seen by anyone hoping to give the student a grade that was anything other than an F. All of that eventually led to me running a side hustle writing papers for other people, primarily in the humanities. Since then, in addition to my own book, my work has been published in four or five other books now. Some of my readers may look at this and say that what I did was unethical. You might be right, but I can tell you that I made every effort to teach people something, even if I ended up writing a paper for them. But I’m not here to talk about the ethics of some of the situations I’ve been in. I’m here to talk about writing.

What about it? If any of you grew up reading like I did, you will at some point invariably imagined mystical hermit writer who no doubt pulls ideas from thin air and weaves them into magical tales for our consumption. This mythological creature devotes themselves solely to the craft of writing, sitting at an oak desk with a quill and some paper (or a computer), and that’s it. That’s the life of a writer. That might’ve been true for H.P. Lovecraft, but if you look at his prose, there’s much of it that can be said to be torturous to read. Why is that? In my opinion, it’s because he essentially lived that stereotype to a large degree which produced what I consider to be homogenous tales, that lack style and fluidity in favor of the spectacle containing raw ideas and an exhibition of his rather voluminous vocabulary.

If you’re even a little like me, that’s not the kind of writer you ever wanted to be. You wanted your writing to be based on how you see life, something that imparts depth and beauty with each word you scrawl on the page. In order to do that, we first have to live. And it doesn’t matter to me how you define living, but it has to be done. Writing is the result of lived experience, sleepless nights of insane ponderings, an off-the-wall conversation with a friend, or a story from a random stranger on the street… Hell, the inspiration for your writing could even come from a bar fight you had last Wednesday. My point is, that aspect of it really doesn’t matter as long as it is in place. What matters most about being a writer is simple: it’s that you write. To be a good writer, which is not something I am calling myself, you also have to live. If you’re someone who “just writes,” you might be successful. But to have a chance at becoming a great writer, I think the word just should be removed from that sentence.

All this to say one simple thing: if you want to be a writer, live and write life. It doesn’t matter whether it’s through the lens of science fiction, fantasy, a surrealistic novel, or whatever… Live and write life.

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