Why Twitter has made me a better writer.

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Twitter has made me a better writer.

I’ve always been a good writer (my teachers always told me so).  To me it’s not work, it’s pleasure.  I write largely for the fun of it.   English composition was always my best subject in high school, and creative writing comes to me naturally.  Always has.    So it’s no surprise that I wound up with a career in medical editing and (technical) writing for several years until I started a family.   It wasn’t exactly creative writing, but it was still writing, and therefore enjoyable to me.

Off and on throughout my life, I’ve dabbled in creative writing: fictional stories, fanciful memoirs, imaginative prose, all kinds of descriptive writing, poetry, and even a novel I refuse to show anyone and today sits in a rotting cardboard box in the back of a closet.   And today, of course, I blog.

In college I really enjoyed my creative writing class and made high grades, but my professor had one big problem with my writing:  my tendency to use “purple prose.”

Purple prose is overwrought writing.  My sentences used to be overly long, way too descriptive, and filled with a lot of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, and flowery, overwrought descriptions.

If I could have written the perfectly serviceable sentence, “A black cat jumped over the fence,” I’d write something like this instead:

A lithe feline creature as dark as a starless midnight, so dark its fur absorbed every color that might have surrounded it, virtually shape-shifted its grace-infused body into a spread eagle form and effortlessly soared over the wooden obstacle that no other creature could have breached without seriously injuring itself.

What the hell was that all about?   A cat jumping over a fence or some supernatural shapeshifting thing?  It’s hard to tell for sure.

I think my point is clear.   Publishers and editors hate purple prose, but it is fun to write.  It’s just that no one else wants to read it.  Why use 100 words to make the same point that can be made in 10?   Purple prose is also often emotionally overwrought and a bit nausea inducing.   You can write the simple sentence, “her face crumpled and she began to weep silently” but a purple prose writer might write something more like:

Rivers of clear, salty tears poured from her Caribbean colored eyes (made even more deep turquoise when they were puddled with tears), and as they made their journey, they traced the fine lines of age just beginning to etch themselves into her cheeks, then divided into smaller rivers, and finally into streams, creeks, and small brooks before they finally dripped off the precipice of her chiseled, bony chin and splashed onto the bodice of her magenta velvet dress, and sat there, like clear glass beads, rather than being absorbed by the fabric.

Ugh.  The simple sentence somehow has more emotional impact and doesn’t make you gag.

There’s nothing wrong with simple writing that doesn’t use a lot of big descriptive words and gets right to the point.   Good writing has more to do with the way you string sentences, paragraphs, and ideas together, not how long and descriptive you can make a sentence.

If you enjoy writing long, flowery, descriptive passages, that’s great, but your writing probably won’t get read.   That kind of writing went out of style about 100 years ago.  That’s why novels written in the 18th and 19th centuries are so wordy and descriptive.  Classic novels can go on for ten pages about the physical attributes of a single room or even a piece of furniture.   Back then, people weren’t always rushed and they actually enjoyed reading extremely descriptive writing.   Today it’s all about the action and the dialogue.   Today (unfortunately or not), a novel that starts off describing a single object or a person’s face over several pages would go into the slush pile.

snoopy-writing

Twitter cured me of my tendency to write purple prose.   Many people think of Twitter as shallow because how meaningful can you make a tweet that can only contain 280 characters?  (It used to be worse:  until a year or so ago, you were limited to 140!).   And to some extent, that’s true.   On Twitter, there’s a lot of cotton candy in prose form: shallow “ideas” or strings of words with no nutritive value for your soul or your mind.  But there are also brilliant tweets that contain more meaning and depth than an entire book.  Think of some of the most famous and profound quotes you have ever heard.  They tend to be quite short, don’t they?  Sometimes just a few words.   But they are remembered, and used for decades or even centuries after they were first uttered.  Twitter is a virtual quote factory, if you can bushwack your way through all the fibrous, sugary fluff that obscures the meaty, nutritious stuff.

And if you really, truly need to make your point in more than 280 characters, you can always  thread a series of tweets together.   It’s very easy to learn how to do this (though Twitter addict Donald Trump, not too surprisingly, appears to not have mastered this skill).  Each tweet stands on its own, but is connected to the other tweets in your thread, making an entire article.   Being limited to 280 characters for each tweet within a thread makes it virtually impossible to write run on paragraphs which can make your writing boring and hard to comprehend.  Many tweet threaders number their tweets so there’s no question about what order you’re supposed to read them in.

Writing good tweets that have actual meaning (or are uproariously funny) is an art form and a discipline.   If you write good tweets, they tend to get retweeted by others a lot.   People recognize a good tweet when they read one.   They are relatable, meaningful, and either very true, very funny, or very profound.  They never use lots descriptive words because they can’t.   Forced brevity tends to enhance the message you are trying to get across.   It’s all about the meat and bones of an idea, with all the fat trimmed off.

So, because of Twitter, I have learned to write my ideas or observations without the fat and gristle that could obscure my message.  This has improved my writing in general, and now whenever I read over a post I just wrote, any purple or overly descrptive prose sticks out like blobs of gristle hanging off a pork roast and immediately get sliced off.  At first it was hard to do, but over time it gets a lot easier.

If you’re a writer, don’t knock Twitter.   Expressing an idea using a very limited number of words works wonders for your writing, especially if you are like me and tend to be too wordy or descriptive.

*****

Further reading:

Is Your Prose Too Purple?  (includes a test to find out if your prose needs to go on a diet

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16 kinds of bloggers: which one are you?

Originally posted on September 25, 2015

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There are as many types of bloggers as there are blogs. Here I’m going to describe the 16 different types of bloggers I’ve encountered. Which one are you?

1. The Self-Therapist.
I began my blogging experience as a member of this category. Having just left a long, abusive relationship, I felt the need to document my journey to recovery after abuse by writing about it. My intuition told me that making my therapeutic journal public for all eyes would ultimately be more beneficial for me than just putting it on WordPad or something. My intuition proved correct and I’ve been able to help others too, just by going public.

After awhile, as I no longer felt much of a need to blog about my mental health and relationships with my abusers, I moved more in the direction of The General Purpose Blogger (#13) and now I’m strongly leaning into Pundit (#5) territory. Self-therapy blogs (pejoratively referred to sometimes as “crazy” blogs) have become increasingly common in recent years, probably because of the sagging economy that makes it difficult for many people to be able to access or afford good psychotherapy. Blogging definitely *is* effective therapy, though!

2. The Journalist.
Somewhat related to #1, The Journalist writes about their daily experiences, observations, thoughts, opinions, activities, etc. for the whole world to see. The intention isn’t necessarily self-therapeutic, just a way to express to the world their subjective state or feelings at the time. If well written, these blogs can be brilliant and entertaining slices of life many people can relate to, sometimes rivaling New Yorker essays. But if the writer isn’t careful (or is a terrible writer), such posts could come off as narcissistic or just mind-numbingly boring.

3. The Show-Off.
This may be the most common sort of blog, and they are a dime a dozen. Basically an extension of a Facebook or social media page, Show Offs post blog entries documenting family picnics, children’s school events, Breanne and Jacob’s soccer trophies, the progression of the blogger’s pregnancy, home projects, the Family Trip to Disney World, “what I cooked for dinner for the kids last night using only leftovers,” and other bland minutiae of family life. These would be the infamous “Mommy blogs” that have become so vilified of late. Show Off blogs aren’t just limited to moms though–here you would also find teenagers and young adults posting pictures of their friends making silly faces, documenting their social activities, posting videos of drunken parties, and of course, lots and lots of selfies. Show Off blogs could also include pet lovers posting pictures of Fido sporting his new rubber boots or Fifi in her brand new tutu. In all cases, these sort of blogs are essentially extensions of their social media page. Sometimes these sort of blogs even include a Music Player (always the blogger’s current favorite song) that cannot be turned off when viewing the blog.

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4. The Vindicator.
Not that common, but there are a few blogs that exist solely to “get back” at a person or group of persons they feel offended them personally. Blog entries are basically endless rants against the offending person or group. Occasionally, the person or group attacked will attack back, and blog wars can arise. These kind of blogs tend to be short lived, until the blogger’s rage burns out, or the offending party (now the offended) threatens civil action.

5. The Pundit.
Many blogs are basically political soapboxes for people to spew their political beliefs. There are also bloggers on larger news sites such as Huffington Post, who have been given their own license to do the same thing. Since Trump’s election, many small-time bloggers like me have found themselves becoming armchair political analysts. Such are the times we live in.

6. The Preacher.
Related to The Politician (above), The Preacher’s mission is to convert everyone to their belief system, whatever it may be. These blowhards may quote from the Bible or other religious text excessively to back their views. If you don’t do exactly as they say, you are going to burn in Hell. Disagreement in comments is usually not tolerated, and comments are sometimes not even allowed.

To be fair, however, there are a number of more liberal Christian/religious blogs that are not like this at all, and are open to other points of view and encourage people to ask questions. But I don’t personally consider them “preacher” blogs, even though technically they are.

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7. The Expert.
Usually a professional in their field, such a blogger may be a paid guest blogger for a large website. Such experts could be doctors, psychologists, nurses, teachers, finance and business executives, or experts in any other field.

8. The Practical Muse.
These are the “how-to” bloggers, who focus on their hobbies or interests like cooking, gardening, home decor, beauty and fashion, child-rearing, car maintenance, blogging, etc. Sometimes the focus is more specific: bonsai gardening, dessert cookery, antique car maintenance, fashion for wannabe hip hop stars, raising a child with autism, blogging for fame and fortune, etc.

9. The Creative Writer.
These blogs can be either great or terrible. These are the blogs where you’ll find the angsty adolescent poetry, word-salad like prose, bad (or sometimes great) fiction, fan fiction, etc. This category sometimes bleeds over into #1 (The Self Therapist) or #2 (The Journalist).

10. The Hater.
Blogs like these exist to celebrate hatred toward a person (usually a celebrity or other public figure) or group of people. These blogs can be entertaining (if you agree with the prevailing sentiment) or infuriating (if you do not). Unless you are in a agreement, it’s probably best not to comment on these blogs, because you will be mobbed and acquire a new lower orifice in the process. Hater blogs tend to last only as long as the blogger’s passionate ire lasts, so they tend to burn themselves out (or are sometimes forced to be taken down by offended parties).

bieber_hate

11. The Motivational Blogger.
All sweetness and light and positive thinking, 24/7, 365 days a year. Such bloggers focus on inspirational memes, verses, quotes, and sometimes original essays, meant to make you feel inspired or motivated. Unfortunately blogs like these can sometimes have the unintended effect of making you feel like a horrible person or a failure because you’re not that upbeat, happy and successful all the time. Or they can simply be annoying.

12. The Artist.
A showcase for an artist’s creations, showing their paintings, sculpture, photography, jewelry, etc. Sometimes these can also be “Merchant” blogs, if the artwork is for sale.

13. The General Purpose Blogger.
Opinionated Man’s A Good Blog Is Hard to Find (formerly HarsH ReaLiTy) is such a blog. A General Purpose blogger writes about everything. Nothing is off limits. General Purpose blogs tend to become popular due to the fact they attract a large audience who have varying interests. The only problem with blogs of this type is the blogger can be seeming to spread themselves too thin, and the blog seems to lack a focus or sense of cohesiveness and can overwhelm readers with too much information.

This blog seems to be veering in the General Purpose (and Pundit) direction too, because I’ve been running out of new things to say about narcissism. But this has always been sort of a general purpose blog anyway, because from the very beginning only about 80% of my articles have been about narcissism or mental health. I’ve always written about other things too. It’s just that lately, “other things” is a larger chunk of the pie.

juggler

14. The Popularity Seeker.
These bloggers just want to get as many views and hits as they can. They want to present an image–a sort of online “false self,” if you will. They are trying to be cool and only write about things they think are cool or “cutting edge,” even if those things don’t really interest them. You can always tell a blog that’s trying too hard to be popular, because it will usually bore you to tears. You can just tell the blogger doesn’t really give a shit about what they’re posting, they just want as much traffic as they can get and want to present an image of something they probably aren’t in real life. Bloggers like these are usually narcissists or people with low self esteem using blogging to try to feel better about themselves.

15. The Merchant/Entrepreneur.
A blogger whose posts are essentially cleverly concealed advertisements for items or services they’re selling. Artist blogs (#12) often (but not always) bleed over into this category.

16. The Fan.
Like #10, fan blogs focus on a celebrity or other public figure, a sports team, a TV show, a musician, or the like. The only difference is the blogger is a fan instead of a hater. Haters of the blogger’s object of adoration need not comment. If you do, you will probably be banned.

A lifetime of writing (part two).

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In Part One, I wrote about my early adventures as a writer, and promised to have Part Two up in a timely fashion.  I got distracted by other things but I didn’t forget, so here’s the story of my relationship with the written word after my mid-20s or so. Since all of  this takes place as an adult, I’ve decided to divide Part Two up by decades instead of life-stages.

Late 1980s.

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In 1986 (also the same year I got married), I got my first job as a kind of/sort of writer, working for a nonprofit organization in New York City, writing technical entries for their manuals. At first I loved the job, as it involved a lot of research (mostly using microfiche) and actual writing, not merely editing someone else’s work (even though the writing was highly technical and had to be written in their own style). I became quite good at following the required style, and soon was training new employees and even asked to write and develop the new style manual. Not being much of a people person, I never felt that comfortable with training others, but was good enough at it to be promoted a year later to Assistant Editor.
That’s when everything began to fall apart. At the time, everything was becoming automated, and I wasn’t at all comfortable with the new method of “writing” the manuals, in which DOS fields had to be filled in and there was now very little writing involved. It seemed the “editorial” job had become nothing more than a glorified data entry job, with the automated system doing most of the work. My attitude went downhill and in 1990 I finally quit for a medical editor’s job at a large publishing company.

Other than my job, I did no other writing, because during this time I was busy as a newlywed and starting a home. At the time, it was fun and what I wanted to do. My husband hadn’t yet begun to show his true colors or started his emotional abuse of me, although the red flags were certainly there.

1990s.

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Read on to find out why this factory worker belongs here.

In late 1990, I started working as a medical editor at the publishing company mentioned above. I also was taking freelance proofreading jobs for the nonprofit company I had previously worked for (I’d remained on good terms with them). My new job proved to be disappointing at first–the “editorial” position I’d taken working for a medical journal that focused on skin disorders was nothing more than a secretarial/receptionist job. I spent most of my time answering phones and typing letters. Any “writing” consisted of writing up phone messages for my higher ups. I felt like I was too “good” for this position, and eventually transferred to another department in the same company that was looking for a production editor.

The production editor’s job was highly technical and involved fitting type into the journal pages in a way that looked good but allowed room for ads and pictures, which meant one of my tasks was to act as a liaison between the art department and the advertising department and I didn’t care for this part too much because it required social skills I didn’t really have.  The job also involved a lot of proofreading and basic grammar editing. Since doctors wrote the articles that were submitted (this was for a journal that focused on sexual and reproductive disorders), there was little to no actual writing involved in this job, even though most of the submitting doctors were horrible writers. I couldn’t stand trying to decipher their atrocious writing (and spelling–these doctors would probably all fail a third grade spelling bee), but the job itself was interesting. The managing editor was insane and never satisfied. She loved to berate and call us all names. Imagine my surprise when she gave me a great performance review–she had never said anything nice to me before!  She even talked about promoting me, which never really happened but I did get a few more actual writing assignments.

In 1991 I got my own column, which was about AIDS and HIV. Basically I had to research new information about HIV/AIDs and write up short summary articles detailing new findings, and then organize them on the dedicated page along with any ads and graphics. Later on I got a second column, about fertility and infertility. The funniest part of my job was editing a column in which doctors submitted humorous stories to the journal. I remember one in which a man who was a factory worker liked to, er, satisfy himself during his lunch break. While everyone went out to lunch and no one was around, he stayed behind and used the machinery to “take care of business.” One day his appendage got stuck in the machinery but he managed to pull himself free (with a lot of blood and pain) before his coworkers returned. Unfortunately, in order to free himself, he pulled it right off! Frantic, he used a staple gun to re-attach his mangled member, stuffed a lot of paper towels in his pants to control the bleeding, and resumed working as if nothing had happened. Not surprisingly, the man developed a terrible infection and a high fever. He finally had no choice but to tell his doctor what happened. I don’t remember whether the man’s private parts were saved or not, but it had to have been very traumatic. It’s a terrible story but funny too, because of the man’s stupidity. My job was to select the best stories and edit them so they were readable. You can imagine this part of the job could be interesting!

In December 1991, two months after my son was born, I returned from maternity leave to find out the journal was folding! It always had an identity problem and never could seem to be taken seriously as a medical journal but at the same time was too clinical to be a health magazine for laypeople. Everyone knew this was coming, it was just a matter of when. I lucked out in that I had my son before we were laid off and was able to take advantage of both the generous maternity leave and 6 month’s severance pay which allowed me to stay home with my son longer than I would have with just the maternity leave alone. A friend of mine worked in another department that published book reviews (actually, a well known publication) and it turned out they were accepting freelance book reviewers. I got the job which paid very little (about $30 a review) but allowed me to stay connected to the writing/publishing world and was something to put on my resume. The job entailed reading a pre-publication copy of one new book per week and writing a review about it. My “specialty” was new pop psychology and self-help books, and general miscellanea. Most of these books weren’t that good, but having been a psychology major the genre I wrote about was right up my alley. I usually wrote a positive review even if I didn’t like the book, because I was afraid to do otherwise. Almost none of these books sold many copies and most have long been forgotten.

Here’s a sample of the sort of reviews I wrote. This one was for Robert Fulghum’s popular book “Oh Oh.”

The author of the bestselling All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten and It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It has put together another volume of bite-sized inspirational whimsies. Drawn from his experiences as a child, as a preacher, and from everyday life, Fulghum’s eye-opening (although never moralistic or preachy) anecdotes are written in a comfortable and unpretentious style, giving one the homey feeling of sitting on grandpa’s porch on a lazy Sunday afternoon sipping iced tea. Some of the essays are reminiscent of Garrison Keillor, flavored with a bit of Norman Vincent Peale. In any case, it is worth taking the time to appreciate simple pleasures and human kindness in today’s hectic and stress-filled world. Fulghum’s book is one way to get started. (Previewed in Prepub Alert, 5/1/91.)

The one time I decided to write a bad review was for a book I felt had no redeeming qualities and I simply couldn’t think of anything good to say about it. That book was “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” which went on to become a massive bestseller and still sells well today! The review was published as I wrote it, with only minor changes made. The author was furious! A public retraction had to be written and I was let go. I almost died when I saw it had become #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. If only my review of that book had been a good one! I’ve never been known for my great timing or choices.

Shortly after this, I moved to North Carolina with my family (my daughter was born in 1993, 7 months before we moved). The rest of the 1990s were spent raising my children, trying to handle my husband’s drinking and escalating abuse (sometimes by becoming emotionally abusive myself), and adjusting to the culture shock of a young woman raised in the New York metro area now living in the rural South. The only writing I did was shopping lists. I no longer had any connection to the New York publishing world but was too consumed by my new life to care.

2000s – 2010s.

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In early 2000, I began to get my wordsmith feet wet again. I’d become involved in a history and politics forum (still active to this day but overrun by trolls since their only mod left in 2010) and was extremely active on it for about 3 years. People used to tell me I wrote extremely well and the owners of the forum, also authors of a book about cycles in history, used quotes by some of the more well-known forum participants. I was one of them.

In 2003, I wrote a novel. It was the first time I actually finished writing a novel. But it sucked because I deliberately wrote it in a style I thought was “cool” but wasn’t really my own. In fact, I didn’t really like reading other people’s books written in that style. The novel also had no plot to speak of (thinking of good plots and endings has always been something that eludes me, which is why I do better with non-fiction and short stories).  The two main characters were both unlikeable and immature (the man was boring and one-dimensional and the woman was probably Borderline-Histrionic), and there were too many badly written and unbelievable sex scenes in leiu of any real character development.  I’d include a passage here to illustrate how bad it was (not a sex scene though), but that would mean I’d have to start digging out my overstuffed closet to find it and I’m definitely not in the mood for that right now, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

At the time I didn’t think the novel was that bad, so I let my mother read it. Big mistake. She basically told me it sucked and that I “shouldn’t think of myself as Prima Ballerina without having ever learned to dance.” Ouch! Typical of my mom, undermining what little confidence I had, but in a way she was right. Every publisher I sent the novel to rejected it. After about ten tries, I packed all 300+ pages into a cardboard box and only looked at it again recently. It sucks as bad now as it did in 2003. How did I ever think this self-indulgent POS written at the height of my distastrous marriage when I was also quite mentally ill was any good? But at least it was something.

I continued to post on various forums in a variety of subjects and became addicted to the Internet. Up until this time I continued to be a voracious reader, but the Internet was perfect for someone as asocial and reclusive as myself and satisfied both my need to write and my social needs. I read fewer books but more badly written garbage online. Other than forum posts though, I wrote nothing until I began to blog in September 2014, a little over a year ago.
The rest of the story is told throughout this blog, so I’ll end this post here.

Part One can be read here.

 

 

A lifetime of writing (part one).

Selectric_II

Writing, as opposed to the spoken word, has always been my preferred mode of communication. While it’s true I’ve never published a book or made a real career of it, I have a deep love of words and the rhythms and drama of the English language. Writing is where I feel the most at home in myself, and when I’m at my happiest and feel the most productive. Starting this blog, in spite of some painful incidents arising from it in this past year, has been the best decision I ever made.

This blog began as one for victims of narcissistic abuse and of course, as a ranting platform for myself, but recently I’ve been moving away from that subject for several reasons, the most obvious one being that I simply can’t think of anything new to say about narcissism that hasn’t already been said. There are other reasons too. I haven’t decided what this blog’s new focus should be, or if it should have one at all. But I love to write about writing, so that seems like as good a topic as any, at least for today, so I thought I’d share what my lifelong on-again, off-again love affair with the written word has been like.

Childhood.

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English was always my favorite subject in school, and my best one too. Once I learned how to form letters and put them together, I found that I loved written assignments and always did well in them. As a child I also loved to draw and often wrote little illustrated stories at home for fun. Not too long ago I wrote the sad story about the little blank books my father brought me home from a business trip, and how I used to fill them with little stories and pictures (usually drawn in marker because I liked the sharp edges of a marker or pen over crayons and you could fit in more detail). Unfortunately, that ended one day when I found out some of my creations had been stolen. After that I was hesitant to write for myself anymore, and pretty much stopped drawing at all.

But my love of writing didn’t die, and as I grew older, my stories became more detailed and longer. I also liked writing papers for school about topics that interested me and enjoyed everything that went with putting together an awesome looking project–choosing what color construction paper to use for the covers (which I liked to slide into a clear plastic cover with a color-coordinated plastic spine to hold it all together), what to draw on the cover (if anything), how to design the letters spelling out the title, organizing the pages, etc. I almost always made A’s on these projects.

Once I learned to read fluently, I couldn’t get enough books. I remember in third grade, I read voraciously. For some reason, I was particularly enamored of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. I also really liked anything by Beverly Cleary. But I’d read just about anything I could get my hands on. At about age 10, I received “Harriet the Spy” as a gift, and she became my hero. I must have read that book about 10 times, and I read Louise Fitzhugh’s other books as well (too bad she didn’t write more books). To me, Harriet was the coolest girl ever, and she loved writing as much as I did. If I couldn’t be one of the popular girls, then I wanted to be Harriet. She was relatable, but so much cooler than I was. For awhile I even carried around a notebook (a black and white cardboard speckled one just like hers) and wrote down random observations about people. I think Harriet is still relevant. I know Fitzhugh’s books are still popular because so many children who are “different” or feel out of place can relate to Harriet. I wish I still had some samples of my early writing, but unfortunately these were lost a long time ago.

harriet_the_spy
Harriet was my idol when I was about 10.

I was often the target of bullies, especially in 3rd-5th grades, and often would escape to the school library for solace. We had a very sympathetic school librarian. I loved everything about libraries, especially the smell of books. It was very comforting to me, and the only place I felt really at home. Books really were my friends. One of my favorite places to go on the weekends was (drum roll, please!) the public library. I think it’s terrible that government funds for public libraries have been cut in the past decade. I think they’re so important. The Internet is great, but nothing beats a library for nurturing your mind.

Adolescence.

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During my teen years, writing became a back-burner activity, something I did when there was nothing else to do. I did continue to read voraciously, but was a lot less inspired to create anything of my own. What I did write tended to be what one of my teachers called “thunder and lightning” poetry–typical adolescent angst poetry about darkness, depression, despair, neverending rain, crashing storm-generated waves, and death imagery. I was Goth before there was such a thing (and liked to dress in black or dark clothes too). I also wrote long, angry screeds about my mother, who I’d decided (rightfully) was the shallowest, most un-maternal person on earth.

I also kept a diary. It was thick sky-blue leather hardcovered book with a golden lock and key. Unfortunately I couldn’t fit much in the spaces for entries, because it was a five-year diary so I only had a 5th of a page to write anything, and the lines were tiny (and my handwriting tended toward the large and florid). I finally quit writing in it after about 2 1/2 years. Like most other things from my growing-up years, I have no idea what happened to it.

Term papers became more of a chore, because now I was required to use and cite sources, etc. but once I got motivated, I did enjoy it and always got high grades. Sometimes, though, I’d wait until the night before it was due (after fretting for weeks) and stay up all night working frantically to finish the project. My teachers could never tell the difference, but I certainly don’t recommend waiting until the last minute to start a school project, if for nothing else other than the enormous stress that causes.

Early Adulthood.

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College was basically a continuation of high school as far as my engagement with writing was concerned and was limited mostly to term papers and school projects. Of course, the topics I had to write about were more in keeping with my interests (psychology and art). They were also required to be typewritten and I had recently learned how to type and really liked the “professional looking” fonts available on the school’s IBM Selectric and the futuristic looking font-balls you could snap in and out of the machine (I had a typewriter, but it was a basic Royal ribbon typewriter with standard typeface). In those days before the Internet, access to fonts that didn’t look like “typeface” was considered very cool. I also liked the fact I could backspace and actually erase mistakes, instead of having to use White-Out or erasing strips which only covered them and always looked messy. I still have a few of my psychology papers; sometime soon I’ll dig them up and read over them again.

The only project I ever did badly on in college was a verbal assignment on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (oh, the irony!) for my Abnormal Psychology class, but it wasn’t because I hadn’t done my homework or prepared for it; it was because we had to present it in verbal form, in front of the classroom, and I clammed up terribly and my mind went completely blank. I got a D in that assignment, and it took me a very long time to get over that. In written assignments though, I always got A’s or high B’s.

My love affair with electronic typewriters like the Selectric ended when I started my first office job as a receptionist and had to spend entire days typing up invoices and memos. I remember our first word processor and how cool that seemed. I even took classes in Wang, but once again, it wasn’t too long before that seemed humdrum too.

I only completed three years of college because I got engaged and had to work full time, and something had to go. If I had to do it over again, I would have waited to marry and gotten a degree in journalism or gone for a Masters. While married, I didn’t write anything more ambitious than shopping lists. I wouldn’t dabble in creative writing (for myself) again until my early 40s, although I did take jobs as a technical writer, medical editor and part-time book reviewer during my late 20s and thirties.

(To be continued in Part 2.)