Monday, February 13, 2012

Origins

Blogfest time again! This one is hosted by DL Hammons, Creepy Query Girl, Alex J Cavanaugh and Matthew MacNish.


On February 13th, all participants will answer a most vital question: When and how did you first become a writer? How did it all begin? What are your writing origins?

Writing was something that kinda sneaked up on me from a distinctly unpromising background.

At school, I was OK at English but struggled with stringing together coherent thoughts on paper. It was the same with other subjects, and the one common theme was writing. I disliked it. It wasn't so much the writing of words, it was coming up with what to say in the first place. My mind always went blank.

The one subject I excelled at was mathematics, which involved no writing. Bliss!

Guess what I studied at university? Feeling insufferably smug whenever one of my friends had to pull an all-nighter. Essay crisis? Pah! Mathematicians don't write essays.

And so I continued through life, thankful never to have to write another essay or piece of creative prose ever again!

Then, in September 2004, I started getting an idea for a story. Some images formed in my mind so vivid that I felt compelled to try getting them down on the page.

To this day, I have no idea why.

So I made my first faltering and painfully self-conscious attempts to write a scene or two of a novel. It was difficult. Each time I turned to my computer screen it felt like someone was watching over my shoulder, pointing and laughing at my ridiculous attempts. But it got easier.

And then I started wondering if I was doing anything worthwhile, or if it was nothing more than self-indulgent time-wasting. I found an online critique group, submitted my first chapters, and nervously checked email for responses.

And I made a wonderful discovery.

People didn't laugh. They didn't sneer. Sure, what I had done was nowhere near publishable - but it wasn't a lost cause.

Since then, I've worked to improve. The more I learn, the more there is to learn. I still struggle with ideas, with how to torture my characters (I'm way too nice to them), how to get them into - and out of - awkward situations, but I am now proud to count writing as a serious pursuit.

47 comments:

  1. Just the opposite for me...math was a total mystery..still is.

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  2. Yay, someone else who wasn't a strong writer to begin with. Not that I was strong at math, either. You at least had that. :D

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  3. Wow, I had no idea you were such a late bloomer! I've been writing since I was 7, yet it's funny that we both ended up at roughly the same place and time in terms of our writing. How funny is that? :)

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  4. There's nothing wrong with being late in the game. ;) As an adult I'm able to discipline myself to the writing task, and learn from my mistakes easier, than when I was writing in school.

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  5. Yay, another math head that hated creative writing!

    I shared the start of my story about a year ago on my blog:

    http://jandrewjansen.com/blog/2010/12/14/how-did-your-story-start/

    Great story.

    --j--

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  6. Math is evil. Glad to know there are people out there who enjoy it though. :D

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  7. Isn't it funny how writing sneaks up on us? Great story!

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  8. This sentence really resonated with me:
    'Sure, what I had done was nowhere near publishable - but it wasn't a lost cause.'

    I can truly identify with this :-)

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  9. Writing is so much about practice, and we can't practice if we don't get the words down. Hooray that you did...and do!

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  10. I'm a math and science nerd, too, but I've always loved the written word, too, whether reading it or writing it. How interesting that the muse tapped you on the shoulder when you had no interest initially, isn't it? Thanks for sharing your tale. I enjoyed reading it, and will sign on as your newest follower.

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  11. One of the downsides to living on the Pacific coast - I'm always late to the party. Real Life still has some demands to make of me, but I will get around to responding properly to comments, and to visiting the other blogs and reading your "Origins" stories.

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  12. Love finding those online crit groups that really sharpen our skills. Nice to find your blog.

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  13. Delores, it may be a mystery, but it's a beautiful mystery :)

    Welcome Stina, glad to meet another late starter.

    David, that is funny, isn't it? Just remember though that you have a few years advantage on me in age!

    Kimberlee, that's a good way of looking at it!

    J, we'll have to start a math-lovers club and talk transfinite set theory -- Buzz Lightyear knew what he was talking about when he said, "To infinity...and beyond!"

    Oooh, Jean, them's fighting words :)

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  14. What a great post, Botanist! Ah, the totting up of numbers...like black holes to me! I admire your determination and resolve in the writing department; if you believe you can, you will! I'm rooting for you!

    Cheers, Jenny @ Pearson Report
    Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

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  15. Johanna, isn't that true!

    Sarah, I think that is a truth we all have to face before we can start to grow as writers.

    Liza, that's true too, and I have to hang my head and admit I don't *write* half as much as I should. It's all critiquing and editing right now.

    Susan, welcome to The Bald Patch, and you can join J and me in the Nerd Club :) I should have said, I was a late starter for writing, but I used to devour books by the barrowload.

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  16. Heather, welcome also. And online crit groups have been invaluable in this journey!

    Jenny, sounds like another misconception about mathematics. As one of my teachers used to say, with a disdainful sniff whenever anyone talked about adding up numbers, "That's not maths, that's sums"

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  17. *self-indulgent time-wasting*

    Well, that hit the nail on the head! It's so fascinating to hear of a Botanist who never thought they would actually like writing! It is further proof that writing often chooses US!

    This idea that writing is self-indulgent and a waste of time is the bane of my existence. It feels, sometimes, like trying to pull against a team of horses (I'm imagining this insanity now) while maintaining a conversation about mathematics and how it pertains to this very situation, and if only I had the mind for it, it might very well get me out of this tight spot!

    I like this place. Botany? Pacific? I'm intrigued!

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  18. Your story reminds me of my older son who had an aptitude for math, and had little patience for writing. Then sometime in college, something clicked and he didn't mind writing papers anymore. It's amazing how quickly things can change. Nice meeting you via the blogfest! Julie

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  19. I really love this story. Ah, the irony of life! Something you avoided all your life grew into a passion. I really admire you for reaching out and seeking feedback. I think that's one of the most difficult things to do, because it involves putting our writing fantasies at risk, to some extent. However, it's the only way to get better.

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  20. That's a great story. I love how you were compelled to do it and came to love it.

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  21. Just popping in as one of the co-hosts, and am now your newest follower. Nice to meet you, Botanist!

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  22. How strange that something you avoided like the plague in youth has come full circle to domainate your thoughts. Wonderful...and unique...ORIGIN story! Thanks for sharing. :)

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  23. Like you said when you stopped by, it's like looking in a mirror. I only wish there'd been more online accessibility during my early years writing. Having to look somebody in the face as you let those precious words out of your grasp can be terrifying - much better to blindly send them on their way and then await the results.

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  24. we have startlingly similar stories, fellow mathematician =)
    yay! great beginning!

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  25. It sounds like you've got some really wonderful people in your life who didn't laugh or give you a hard time about writing. I think it's awesome that you stuck through writing those first few novels when sitting down to the computer could seem so difficult!

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  26. That writing but sure is a sneaky little creature!
    great to meet you through this blogfest.

    your newest follower,
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  27. Scarlett, I don't think the label applies to those lucky authors whose books grace the bookstores and best-seller lists. They are in the very serious business of entertainment. It's us unpublished masses who have to fight the accusation of self-indulgence, and I was most afraid of finding that I had nothing to offer that anyone would take seriously. I'd already trodden that path with my visual arts, but that's a whole 'nuther post :)

    Julie/Empty Nest, it still amazes me how this kinda snuck up on me!

    Sarah, it was a difficult step indeed, but I've developed a lot more confidence in myself as a result.

    Tonja, it's strange how that came about. Not so surprising in retrospect, but again that's another post.

    Matt, hello and welcome, and thanks so much for co-hosting!

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  28. DL, thank you also for hosting - and I believe the idea was originally yours too? This blogfest has been a real eye-opener.

    Bob, I think online forums have made a vast difference. They manage to take personalities out of it to a large extent and allow you to focus on the words.

    Hey, Tara, the mathematicians are crawling out of the woodwork today. I am pleased to meet you!

    Caitlin, it was touch & go at first. That blank page on the screen can be so intimidating!

    Nutschell, ain't that the truth? Pleased to meet you too.

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  29. This is a wonderful story. You took a chance writing a book, it wasn't a best-seller, but there was promise. It's great that you could recognize your weaknesses and strengths in your work and that you were willing to stick with it.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  30. I love how the ideas came to you and you were compelled to put them on paper. It's so magical.

    We all come to this crazy life in varied and unique ways. I am glad you are in the life to stay.

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  31. How wonderful that you're good at math AND English! I never cared for the former, but I've always loved stringing words together. I just never thought I could be a "real" writer. :D (don't tell anyone my secret identity. ;o)

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  32. Wow! I went to art school to avoid math! I really admire your drive to write despite finding it difficult. I would never devote that kind of brain power to Calculus! And the online writing community is AMAZING. So supportive and helpful. This was a great story!

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  33. Hi. I think it's about having something to say. I don't think the best writers are necessarily 'good' at grammar,, spelling or the act of actually writing; they are good at storytelling, saying something and adding to the sum of human knowledge and experience. What you seem to be good at, if I may say so, is being creative!
    Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

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  34. Ahhh, Math. How I hates it. I always sucked at it and was far better in English and writing those essays. The funny thing?

    I'm an accountant. How the hell did this happen?

    Great origin story, thanks for sharing!

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  35. Nothing is scarier than the first time you wait for feedback. I remember my first workshop well - I didn't sleep for a week while I waited for critiques to come in!

    Great story.

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  36. Thanks Emily and Melissa, and welcome to this little corner of madness!

    LTM, your secret's safe with me :)

    Adrienne, it wasn't so difficult when I actually got around to it. You've hit on a couple of topics for future posts in one comment. More to follow...

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  37. bazza, I don't seem to have too much trouble with the mechanics of writing, or even telling the story - once I have something to say. It's the "have something to say" bit that I find most challenging.

    LOL, Marsha, isn't that ironic?

    Jennifer, yes that is so scary first time around! Now I've got some confidence though, I usually look forward to hearing what folks have to say.

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  38. Hi there! I was about to come visit again so you prompted me! Great to read about your Origins in writing. Taking that first step and waiting for a critique of our writing is nerve wracking, but after doing it for awhile it gets a whole lot easier!

    Now maths, that's a mystery to me!

    Denise

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  39. Nice to meet you. Good luck with A-Z. I look forward to your posts.

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  40. It's the "I'm not a lost cause" feeling that is the best when you first start writing, isn't it? So glad you kept going!

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  41. I'm glad that online critique group encouraged you to keep going. It's important to get our stories out, even if no one else will ever read them.

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  42. That first crit. YIKES. I remember that VERY Well. They didn't laugh or anything, but they sure tore into it. Of course it didn't help I didn't even know what POV was at the time. LOL!!!!! GREAT story. Thanks for sharing.

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  43. Denise, maths is one of those great dividers - you either get it, or you don't. I think it takes a particularly warped mind to enjoy it, but I'm OK with that :)

    Hi Squid, April will be on us all too soon, and will likely catch me unprepared!

    Lydia, that is so true.

    Miranda, it was a formative experience, to say the least. I think the biggest boost for me, though, was critiquing other folks' writing and seeing that I had thoughts of value to offer them.

    Lynn, I learned a lot from those early critiques!

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  44. Usually people are either good at maths or English, and seldom both. So, I think it's awesome you have both. Fascinating post!

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    1. Conversely, maths and music are supposed to go together, but I've never felt any aptitude for the latter. Let's face it, I'm just odd :D

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  45. How wonderful that you're good at math AND English! I never cared for the former, but I've always loved stringing words together. I just never thought I could be a "real" writer. :D

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