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Writing

What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been

I started writing in my senior year of high school. I had told myself stories for many years, tracking them in my head, but that was when I began to write down something that I intended for other people to read.

Partly, this was because I was spending the school year with my grandparents in a small town in western Massachusetts and it was very boring, especially for a shy boy with no money. Partly it was Robert Asprin’s afterward to the Thieve’s World anthology, where he described the process of putting it together, approaching writers, and coming up with character ideas. It was my first glimpse behind the curtain and, as with many other people before and since, it made me think, “I can do that.”

I started a novel, dabbled in some short stories, and even had a (very) brief foray into poetry. In those days I wrote with a felt-tipped pen (started with pencil, but it was too hard on my hand) on notepaper. I finished the novel, typed it up (on a typewriter; this was a very long time ago), realized that it was terrible, threw it away and started over. (I’ll have more to say about learning curves later.)

I wrote through college, finishing another novel and several short stories. I was never a fast writer, but when on a roll I could really crank, and I plugged way at it steadily, though without any commercial success.

Then I graduated and had to get a real job. I wrote a few more short stories, started a few novels that never went very far, but mostly my writing stopped then, in the 90s. Looking back at it, my writing then was pretty good, and if I’d stuck at it I may well have had more success than the few modest sales I actually scored, but with decent jobs in the tech industry paying the bills, I mostly set it aside as a failed effort.

Or so I thought. I suspect now that it may also have been a matter of focus, and brain space. Perhaps I’ll have more to say on that later as well.

Whatever the cause, for about ten years I wrote nothing at all, and very little for several years before that. It wouldn’t quite go away, though; I still hung around with literary types, and story ideas would sometimes come to me, but I pushed them away. I dabbled in blogging, mostly as a way to shout at the world.

Eventually, I broke down and started writing again, turning out what I think is a pretty good novel. I’ve started another novel. I’m taking notes for a non-fiction work.

In The War of Art Steven Pressfield talks about the emotional and even physical harm that artists can do themselves by denying the creative impulse. I don’t know how right he is about that, but I know that much of the book rung true for me. I didn’t get me writing again, but it did play a part.

I don’t know where the road leads, but know that I am once again travelling it.