This is the one small step.
So, I’ve decided that I need to blog. Actually, I decided this around the time I was 10-years old, but there wasn’t anything called “blog” back then. It was just pretty much notebook paper and pencil in my room or the back of my Dad’s Chevy Nova while the family ran errands. I didn’t know it at the time, but I loved writing, would give up writing, hate that I gave it up, and now sit here 40 odd years later or so trying to see if the old habit will take me back.
I’m writing her a love letter.
At 15, I was writing bad poetry at a church camp in Missouri. It would launch my next three years of a promising career in writing so much more bad poetry. It was the 80s, and I was influenced by new wave and MTV, so you can just imagine. I have no idea what happened to all of them; some of them were lost when they were stored in a basement that flooded, but for those of you who are paying attention and looking through old high school paraphernalia, if you happen to come across a copy of “Fat Drunk Women In Bikinis”, please forward me a copy of that copy. I need to see how far I’ve come.
How far have I come? Well, I’m not sure. I do know that one of those really bad poems got an honorable mention in the Jesse Stuart Poetry Festival my senior year. I don’t know how the poem went now, but I know the title was “Help Me, Help Me”. (Which, in four words pretty much sums up my high-school experience.) The poem was a sing-song disaster, something about having writer’s block, then musing about things I could write about, making sure all those things rhymed, and then ending it with “Hey, I just wrote a poem about writer’s block! Yay. Go me.” only it was 150% more cheesy than that.
You’re bored now, aren’t you?
Yeah, me too. But I’m getting to a point. You see, not only did the judges rate the poems by score (1 being superior, 4 being poor, and 5 being oh dear gawd don’t ever write again, please take up math), but they also wrote comments on your work. One judge gave me a lot of fives. But she’s the one I remember because of what she said in her comments:
“The first rule of writing is the writer must have something to say!”
That has stuck with me for 35 years now, and I carried it through college, grad school, and beyond. It may be some of the best one-line advice I ever received about writing. I don’t remember her name; she’s probably dead now, but I got an Honorable Mention from that poem because some of the other judges found it to be “cute”, “inspiring”, and “perfectly appropriate”.
They’re probably dead now too.
Also at 15, I entered my first college course. It was in English Composition at Ohio University Southern. My college professor was very impressed with my work, and kept me after class one day to ask me what year of college I was in. When I told her I was a high-school sophomore, she nearly fell down.
“If you don’t go into writing as a career, it will be the worst mistake you could ever make.”
So, there’s that too.
I didn’t go into writing as a career, and I’ve probably made worse mistakes, but sometimes life just goes that way.
I wrote a few more bad poems in my adulthood about people I knew while waiting tables and getting drunk after work. They were just as bad as the others, I’m sure, and those are not around anymore either. At least I can’t find them. But if someone I know happens to feel nostalgic and comes across “Debbie Likes The Sex”, please forward me a copy.
Going back to school as a 30-something adult was no easy task, but having both taken English Comp back in the stone age, as well as testing out of the junior advanced class, I didn’t have to worry about writing in class for English stuff for a long, long time. But I did in grad school, and that is when blogging actually did exist, and I was not too good at it. My grad school professor told me that I needed to stop being snarky and just be a good writer, which, at that time, I wasn’t.
My ego was hurt. I was no longer bringing my A-game.
I wasn’t even sure I even ever had an A-game.
He turned out to be one of my favorite professors ever. Basically because he brought out the best in me by making me break down my past, not settle for anyone’s opinions of my work back then, and focus on the now. My writing got better. He was one of my peer reviewers as well, and I am forever in his debt for making me more focused on just writing well.
I realize that I’ve been snarky and this piece is probably not that good. But at least I have the ability to recognize it now. I’ll get better. I promise.
But here, I’m starting again. I’m asking writing to take me back. I’m bringing flowers and bad poetry, but it is coming from the heart.
I have something to say.
Help me, help me.