Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tom - What Makes You Think You Can Write?

We can all write. Some write with style and content worth considering. Others just make to-do lists, grocery lists, and such. Our teachers taught us letters, then sentences, then paragraphs and book reports. Some of us endured writing short stories, essays and even poetry at the hands of our teachers. But, all of us were taught to write. Hence, we all think we can.

I think it’s interesting that so many people I talk to have a book they want to write. A book that they’ve been thinking about for many years but haven’t taken the time to put on paper. I’ve listened to their story ideas. Some are great. Some are not so great. But without a doubt everyone has a story to tell.

I have never personally known a professional writer. So, I don’t really know what being a writer means in daily life. I’ve seen movies about writers, writing and book publishing. I imagine these stories have been glamorized more than a bit.

While in college, I fell under the spell of two creative writers, J. T. Burney and Ava Levell. They held a magic that I wanted to share. So, I attempted to write poetry. I probably wasn’t very good but I enjoyed it. And, one of my poems was published in Baylor University’s 1963 literary magazine, The Phoenix. I have never found a place to put it on a job application, but, I am a published author. :)

Most of my working life has been spent as a financial executive or entrepreneur. I have written non-fiction extensively in the form of company brochures, annual reports, training and procedures manuals, employee benefit handbooks, technical articles for magazines, and a five volume operations manual for sub-prime lending.

It has been a pattern in my life to take on a new activity of self expression every ten to fifteen years. First, it was model railroading, then drawing and painting portraits and landscapes, and most recently building performance engines and hot rods. In each instance I’ve approached it systematically by learning everything I could about the subject by reading about it, instruction from a mentor and then immersing myself into the activity.

Deciding to write fiction is just picking a new way to express myself.

Of course, the problem is that it is a lot easier to think you can write with Grisham or Follett than actually writing a paragraph that can stand up with theirs!