The Write Life

Screen Shot 2013-01-10 at 9.28.04 AM

I have been a writer my entire life. From kindergarten to today equals 30 of the last 35 years of my life have been spent writing. My mother still has my books from kindergarten where I drew animals I visited at the “zoo.” When it was time for “centers” I would always want to go to the writing center.

In middle school, I had notebooks upon notebooks of really bad fiction. Usually they involved some heroine who was less than popular, pining away for some popular guy a few grades older. Hmm, was this fiction or fact? Nonetheless, they are stored away in some Tupperware® bin right about now, never to be shown the daylight.

In high school, my notebooks were still filled with mindless dribble, only this time it was journals of angst and stories about less-popular girls dealing with bitchy girls and more popular guys. Hmm, I am starting to see a pattern here. I also expanded to song-writing once I learned to play guitar and most of those songs were about the same subjects, lust and longing. For a suburban teen I seemed to have quite a bit of depression. Or maybe it was oppression. Who knows? My friends didn’t quite understand my affection with words and how they completed me. Sometimes just finding a synonym or learning a new word was as exciting as their trip to the mall. They put up with my incessant blabbering about such and such writer and accompanied me to poetry slams and Southern writers’ fiction readings. After all, downtown Greenville in the mid 90s only had a bunch of coffee shops for teens to hang out in.

Then one day I had a teacher encourage me to submit my stuff to the Fine Arts Center. After all, I was the kid who got excited about essay tests, secretly thanking God they weren’t multiple choice. My mom and dad however poopoo-ed the idea of me going to a magnet school and alas, my dreams were shattered. At least back then it was the biggest dream I had.

Fast forward to my junior year. I had a quasi-boyfriend who was of equal talent and had the same fondness for music as I, and he was applying to the FAC. My same English teacher again told me to apply and I decided to do it against my parents’ knowledge. This time I was chosen for an interview and somehow, through a tiny miracle, I was chosen to be one of the elite 11 creative writing students.

I spent my senior year immersed in all things writing-related and led a double life. I tried to indulge my high school friends with all their goings-on and be regular teenager, but all I wanted to do was run away with my magnet-school friends and play music or talk about writers or even watch the ballet group. I hated ballet but I respected the hell out of those girls and dancers and artists who performed and listened to me read my poetry on the big stage.  My mainstream school never seemed to “get it.” But that’s okay; I loved those friends just the same.

Fast forward to college and I was an advertising major because it was a logical choice for a creative person who liked to write but still hoped to find a job. Unbeknownst to me, advertising also required a business minor, which meant math and math and more math. Um, no thanks. Math and creative types go together about as well as Kim Kardashian shopping at Tj Maxx. Practically flunking out, I switched to creative writing, without telling my parents, and prayed my advertising credits would suffice for a journalism minor. This was the best decision I have ever made.

Like most, my parents wondered what in the world would I do with this degree. But I had no intention of being a best-selling author or poet. At least not then. I met friends who didn’t question my reasoning for taking Chaucer as an elective. “You want to speak and read in Middle English for fun?” My dad asked. “You LIKED Shakespeare enough to take multiple semesters of it,” my friend wondered. Yes and so did my classmates.  So I pursued a career in copywriting and have made it my job for as many years as I can remember.

The thing I love about writing is you can take it anywhere and do it at anytime. The older I get, the more I enjoy writing about my true passions: Music and relationships. I’ve been pretty lucky to see every band I’ve ever wanted to see (minus Bob Marley) and have even been paid to interview musicians and attend festivals as a reporter. My favorite movie is “Almost Famous” because it describes my life to a T. I am the struggling music writer and also the groupie or “Band-Aid” as the movie so eloquently describes the die-hard female fans. I’ve toured the country following bands and even spent some time working for them.

So last night, I had my A-ha moment! All this time of working on a non-fiction piece that is still in production, I’ve been itching for a piece of fiction to hit my brain. And it occurred to me during a screening of the movie, “The Words” with my husband. I would adopt the number one writer’s rule and write about what I know. Music! Concerts! Bands! Fans! I am music’s number one fan. I live it, breathe it, see it, write it, play it. Music is in me 24-7. I may not be a successful musician, but one only has to know me for a few minutes to know it is my biggest passion. I once asked a girl who was dating someone close to me who her favorite band was, mere minutes after meeting her. She looked at me like it was an odd question but to me it was the easiest way to get to know someone with the least amount of conversation. Her answer would quickly define her. Good or bad. Music to some people is just something in the background and I feel so bad for those people. They do not know the joy music can bring. And to others, it is a reason for being and to get up in the morning. It offers a sense of camaraderie and purpose.

I write all of this today because I am excited for 2013’s biggest goal to be to write my novel. I have an entire framework created in my mind and now I need to get it on the paper and see where it goes. Somehow, I will find the time to fit this into my already crowded budget of time for workouts, weight loss, parenting, healthy cooking and maintaining friendships that are so dear to me. But if my hair starts looking a little stragglier and my drinking becomes a habit, you will know I am happy writing J Cheers to 2013!

Em Dashes do more than break up thoughts

I’ve been a freelance writer now for about 12 years. I’ve had the opportunity to work on quite a few neat projects: a wine magazine, some cd/concert reviews, writing about a swimming school, and lots of real estate writing. I choose my gigs very carefully and try to find something to suit my personal interests. But what I don’t understand is all these jobs out there on sites like odesk, craigslist and what not, that want to pay writers (and good writers at that) as little as $2 per hour. Today i saw a job for 80 cents for 300 words. Not 80 cents PER word (I’d take that in a heartbeat). But the entire 400 word blog post would be 80 cents.

Do people not understand the value in the written word? The need for being a good communicator? As the product of many lay offs, I often wonder why people take writers with such a give or take attitude. The creative groups I’ve been a part of are often the red-headed step children of a company. People think all we do is make things pretty or play games and juggle Squoosh balls. Guess what, there’s more to it than that.

Do you know how many times a day I try to explain to coworkers the difference between an EM dash and an EN dash? Do you know? I’m not writing to present myself as holier than thou, I just mean to illustrate that dissecting grammar to its core is not as colorful or “pretty” as one may think.

Alas, I sit here today, listening to my grammar girl podcast, researching some freelance jobs that hopefully will allow me to buy more than bread and water with the paycheck and hope that one day people out there will understand what we writers do. Thankfully, I love being able to communicate, love being able to choose one word over another and will not settle for 80 cents on the 400 word count.

Image At least he says, “if you don’t like my rate, don’t apply.”