Why I write

The short answer is … because I enjoy it!

Okay, a little history to broaden that is in order.  For me, writing’s been an interest since perhaps as early as the 5th grade.  That year, I and a friend of mine “co-authored” a book made out of notebook paper and bound with yarn.  Believe it or not, I still have it.  We started simply, by putting together mini-books about subjects we were interested in – girls, bullies, movies, and so forth.  Then, all of those mini-books were “bound” together into Things.  Yep, I’m not kidding; that was actually the title.  There was even a “comic” of sorts that told a story, made by stringing together drawings with terse little bubbles of dialog.

As I was growing up, either via drawing or by writing out stories in bullet form, I was almost always found with a notebook, a mini-legal pad, or pieces of scrap paper from the church office where my mother was the secretary.  I started writing seriously when I obtained my first “real” computer – a Commodore 64.  That was hooked up to a black and white TV in my room, and given a supply of cassette tapes (at first) and disks (5.25″ floppies – and they were just that, floppy), I had the minimal tools to start writing.  It’s not that paper wasn’t sufficient for gathering ideas, but it didn’t lend itself to the kind of corrections and editing that I have always found necessary to actually write something that was reasonably acceptable.

I started with writing what is now termed “fan-fiction,” although I don’t believe the term was widely in circulation at the time I was in high school in the mid-1980’s.  There were some movies, one made by Don Bluth in particular, and some TV shows, a long-running British science fiction show for example, that made me want to take the characters I had developed – avatars of myself – and interpose them into the worlds created by others.  These were exercises largely for fun, and that was fortunate, since the only time I let one of them out for review by one of my peers, the response was less than encouraging.

In college, I had a lot of inspiration for writing; largely, this is because of the tremendous amount of reading I was doing.  At my university, Mercer, you had two choices of core curriculums.  You could choose the standard “101-this” and “101-that,” or you could choose “The Great Books Program.”  Now, other than a really cool name, this program had one other advantage – it had fewer courses than the standard core.  However, make no mistake, it was very tough work.  We read most all of the major works of western literature including Pascal, Kant, Hume, Dante, Homer, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Kierkegaard, and far too many to just keep on listing.  We were expected to read, debate, and then write about what we had read.  This was an environment I did very well in, and it sharpened a number of my skills (debating and typing not least among them).

Out of these historical inspirations, I had one of my own.  I was led to take one of the “fan- fictions” I liked and mutate that into something completely different – a story with characters that were all mine.  It was here that Trials of the Teldear started to take shape in its initial drafts.  Before my senior year, it was largely complete.  I can recall that fact very clearly, because when I was shipped off to Fort Riley, Kansas for the Army during the summer, what little free time I had was used to dream up “epilogues” for that story.

Essential in that college experience was one very short essay which is pretty boilerplate in creative writing classes.  It’s called A Way of Writing, and it’s by William Stafford.  Now, I may not have read anything else that’s come forth from Mr. Stafford’s pen, but this short essay was very instrumental in instructing and encouraging me to be a writer.  More than 20 years later, I could easily recall the name of the author and the article.  Information that old doesn’t stick around in my head unless I consider it important; obviously, I do.  While I would love to quote certain passages from that work, it would be better if I simply direct you to search it out and read it on your own.  The perfect symphony cannot be represented by only a sampling of its notes; it must be taken and enjoyed in full.

Now, inspired as I was, I was also starting out a career and a new life.  Writing took a back seat for many years.  I didn’t stop writing all of a sudden, but I shifted into “editing” and “file transferring” and so forth.  The Commodore 64 which had carried me through college couldn’t store more than a couple of chapters in memory at a time, so with my first purchase of an “IBM Personal Computer” (compatible), I set about the task of assembling the pieces of Trials into a whole.  There was also the desire to get out and experience life now that I was on my own – go exploring, and live a little before trying to write again.

That period when my writing essentially stopped lasted more than fifteen years – from about 1991 until 2007.  Work situations had been a rollercoaster of difficulties and struggles, and my personal life had also seen its downs and ups, finding a significant improvement when I met my wife in 1997.  During that time, we were busy building a life together, and what little time I had to spare was generally spent being entertained – either by movies, books, or video games.

After moving to Orlando and the birth of our two children, I was again struck by the desire to write a little “fan-fiction.”  I was able to slip away and take my lunches in secluded corners of hotel lobbies and write.  I actually wrote with pen and ink, which I found to be an interesting experience.  Afterwards, I transcribed what I had written back into computer, formatted, and edited it.  Pleased with that effort, it wasn’t long before I was struck with an odd inspiration and started to put together the first few lines of The Rescue.

When I mentioned to my wife that I wrote, she accepted that fact, presuming that it was the kind of writing that most people do in college – poems, short stories, and the like.  Most people do not spill out a five-hundred plus page novel.  To my delight and hesitation, she actually wanted to hear some of the story I was writing.  Although it was somewhat nerve-wracking to read what I had written aloud (having never really shared anything since high school), I was completely overwhelmed by her response.  She liked it and wanted to know what would happen next.  For the past five years and counting, we’ve both been discovering that, book after book after book.

The encouragement of a few key friends has also helped spur me.  Although I haven’t made an exhaustive project out of selling or publishing my books on my own, I was able to distribute copies to close friends and was rewarded by even more positive comments.  Some of these even edit my books on an on-going basis.  They are true blessings in my life.

So, why do I write?  I enjoy it, and now it seems, others do, too.

JTL

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