I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write. Okay, so for those of you who know me, my memory doesn’t go back that far, but I have the proof. I have letters I wrote when I was just nine years old, a bizarre styry where someone tried to correct it but their hand must have cramped up after the first paragraph, if you could tell paragraphs with my center justification. It was typed, but it had to have been on a manual typewriter. I didn’t get to start typing on an electric until I was eighteen.
If I could turn assignments into bizarre stories, I jumped at the chance. Instead of writing sentences with vocabulary words, words that tended to not have anything in common with one another, I would wrap a story around words like valiant and rejected. I had one elementary teacher that spent quite a bit of time marking up my paper. Run-ons and spelling. Chances are when I read fix adverbial elements, I didn’t have a clue what she meant. Perhaps we worked on the corrections together as she wouldn’t let my writing slide; she required that I fix frags and reminded me of spelling rules. She told me that I was wonderfully daft.
Perhaps I became addicted to writing, especially journaling, because it was the in thing to do in school. John Williams, my social studies teacher, had us journal. Many English teachers in junior and senior high had us journal.
And I suspect that if I hadn’t journaled about my mom’s death and the subsequent struggles growing up, I would not have made it to 57.
Now that I’ve been reading David Sedaris diaries, I’m just amazed that he’s making money from the exact thing that I’ve been doing, for almost the same amount of time, except I haven’t been verbally assaulted or overheard the outrageous things he writes down. Perhaps if I had more than a few years in Boston, and had thought about writing down other people’s conversations, I might have been able to match him. But then again, I don’t think I ever want to become the writer that throws down the F bomb, even if other people are saying it, on almost every page. Though if I were to quote my own journal, I would have to as I swear and curse and throw great temper tampers in my journal.
I admire the rawness in which Sedaris writes. There’s no filter. He hears things, and he writes them down. I told one of his jokes, one he overheard, and it was an instant downer. I was with a group of friends at a yogurt restaurant, if restaurant is the right word, and I talked about how I struggled with being offended by things Sedaris wrote, jokes that I wouldn’t be able to repeat in this story, and right after I told the joke, people stopped talking. Another person in the group extended the silence by telling another equally, perhaps even worse joke, that Sedaris told at a show she went to.
His book has motivated me to look back at my journals. I may have gotten really good at journaling every day, but I’m not very good at re-reading them, and I’m missing half the point in journaling to begin with. Half of the point is to write about my frustrations and write about my joys. The second point is to look at those lessons and learn from them, to acknowledge those lessons I have learned or are learning, and to celebrate life.
The strange part about writing is that I had to work hard at becoming addicted to it. Early on in journals, I berate myself for not writing. New Year’s Resolutions always included writing more. Every year I got better and better. I’m now to a point where I might miss a day a month, but even then that is rare since emails as writing.
In September I take a major step on the path of writing by attending a writer’s workshop where I get to focus all of my attention for a week on my writing. Maybe with some outside eyes, which I can’t seem to get from this blog, getting suggestions from other people, I can work on strengthening my writing.
I think it would be beyond cool if people just had to read me while I continue my just have to write. And wouldn’t it be beyond cool if I could actually make a living doing something that I love to do?
Again I’ll ask, what do you think? What do you think I need to do to capture a reader’s attention? What do I need to add, to subtract?