Learning to Write, A Tormented Journey

You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.

Octavia Butler

I did start out writing crap, but knew it was crap. I still think everything I write is crap, and want to always feel that way. It’s my incentive to keep trying to improve while making any compliments my writing receives a welcome surprise .

Growing up I was always an avid reader, compulsive in fact, and like most bibliophiles, always had the desire to contribute to the world of words. Sadly, I wrote nothing for fear of exposing my utter lack of talent, actual or imagined. However, like many transitions in my life, it would take a catastrophic event to change my outlook and impel me to risk failure; in this case, that event was Hurricane Katrina. Three years after the storm, with my house rebuilt, but my life still in ruins, I decided to follow my passion. I felt like I had nothing left to lose.

I’ve only been writing seriously since late 2010. I viewed writing as a combination of craft and art and realized early on that mastering the craft would be my first challenge. Producing something resembling art might come later with time and practice. With that in mind, I enrolled at the University of New Orleans in 2008, but years of writing nothing had eroded my grammatical skills. Like learning carpentry by starting with building birdhouses, I had to begin my literary efforts at the most rudimentary level. It took me two years to create proper sentences again. As the subtitle of my website indicates, I believe I’ve laid a solid foundation but the structure is far from finished. I may never finish, but I am delighted by the challenge.

In spite of the subject of my first book, New Orleans: City of X’s, I never had any desire to write my memoir, my life is not that remarkable. However, the second thing I needed to figure out was how to tell a story properly. Katrina sparked this career change and was a story primed to tell, so it seemed like a sensible place to start. (Actually, career change is a stretch; all, I ever had in the past, were jobs.) I do not plan any further personal life stories in the future. My literary passions include sci-fi, historical novels and mystery and I have concepts in mind for all three.

Embarking on this path, I was not planning to write some great literary masterpiece or become the new Hemmingway or Twain. Nor was I searching for fame and fortune. In the past, I had always done what was necessary to survive. After the trauma of having to start over yet again, I just wanted to do something I love for the rest of my life. It took a long time, but I think I finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up.

Obviously, I’m very new to this, so I have little wisdom to impart to other writers. Besides, you can find all the advice you need from successful authors in seconds with a Google search. What I can offer here is my experience so far and as I move forward. I can share what I did right or wrong, what I learned and what I could have done better. With luck, those who read this might do the same, and we can learn and grow together.

In the end, all, I really want to do, is write stories that people enjoy reading. If I accomplish that, I’ll be rich in ways that transcend fortune or fame.

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