Monday, February 13, 2012

Origins Blogfest: My Young Writing Life



Over at Cruising Altitude 2.0  DL Hammons has encouraged writers to blog today about how their writing journey began. I signed up to participate. I think I'm actually more interested in reading the entries of other writers, but to keep my end of the bargain, here's my story.

I always enjoyed writing. While going through storage boxes awhile back I found my very first diary. I couldn't read anything in it because I didn't know how to spell back then, or even how to form all of my letters properly. Yet I remember vividly how much I loved writing in that little pink book.

Back in the 9th grade, I decided to do something more productive with my joy of writing, and joined the freshman high school newspaper. My first assignment was to cover a school football game (we lived in West Texas at the time and it felt like 90% of what was in that paper was about school football.) I was very nervous, but I worked hard to get all my 'Whos, Whats, Whens, and Wheres' into my little article. When the paper came out, there was my name on an article. With nervous pride, I read it. It was not my article. No two words matched what I had written. I was heartbroken. The worst part, in my memory, is that I was too shy to talk to anyone else at the newspaper about what had happened. Did they lose my article, and throw this one in instead? Was what I turned in so horrible that it was unprintable? Did they just have to drastically cut my piece for space? I don't know and I was too much of a wimp to ask. I regret that. So instead, I went back to my journal, and gave up writing things for other people to read.

We moved here to California later that same school year. My English class was so crowded, that there were not enough seats for everyone. I, as the new kid, had to sit on the floor. If someone was sick, I got to have their desk for the day. My teacher for the rest of that year gave me a much needed boost to my writing self esteem. I don't' remember the assignment, but I wrote about the night my cat didn't come home, and I sneaked out of the house to look for her. My teacher raved about the story, telling me about her emotional response to what I'd written. That experience went a long way in healing my poor writing ego from the newspaper incident.

To try to cut this a little shorter, let's jump to 2005. After not writing for nearly 15 years, I got a Science Fiction story in my head that I couldn't get rid of. I wrote it up and put it on Writing.com for feedback. Most of the feedback was of the, vague, 'it's pretty good' variety. Though one wonderful reviewer, Bob, tore it to shreds. He explained showing vs telling, and gave me links to writing articles. I was elated! I knew the story had big problems, but I didn't know what they were. Finally someone gave me something useful to work with. I found out that you didn't have to be either a good or a bad writer and that was that. Writing could be learned, and improved. And ever since then, I've been learning all I can.




9 comments:

Amanda Borenstadt said...

You're right. It's a great feeling when you get constructive advice and feedback. Peter always jokes that my network of writing friends are a "mutual admiration society." I tell him it's the complete opposite. We're honest with each other and the writing tips I get are amazingly valuable.

Margo Berendsen said...

Geez, that newspaper article incident would have scarred me for life too!!! And I can't believe your English class in CA was so crowded you had to sit on the floor. I will never forget the first really helpful feedback I got back on my writing too. At first it hurt, and then it was like discovering treasure!

Dafeenah said...

That's awesome. You and I seem to be in the same situation. I'm always up for learning. Everytime I put something out there I get "it's great/good" vague response to. I need me a Bob to rip it pieces. Will have to check out this site you mentioned it seems like a good place to start. Thanks for sharing.

DL Hammons said...

Football in West Texas is like a religion, as is anything associated with it. I'm glad you bounced back from that experience!

Wonderful Origin story! :)

nutschell said...

Wow. Didn't think schools in CA were crowded. I'm glad you got that helpful feedback. Great to meet you on this blogfest.

your newest follower,
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Scarlett said...

Hi, Kara! It's hard when we're young and we don't quite have our voice yet. I imagine it must have felt awful to work hard on your article, only to have it come up inexplicably missing.

Your Bob sounds like just what you needed! We all could use a crit partner who isn't afraid to give an honest opinion. It only makes us better.

Cool Origins here in the Fest! Good to *meet* you!

Madeleine Maddocks said...

Positive and helpful feedback is encouraging. Good luck with your journey.

Jeremy Bates said...

Thank for sharing your ORIGIN!
I love your story..

Kara Hartz said...

Thanks everyone. I enjoyed the Origins tour. I see a lot of similarities in many of our stories. I'm still discovering new blogs from the list as well. :)