Dear People Reading this (all...I don’t know...five of you),
Hello. I don’t know you. Okay, maybe I know a couple of you. You give me “likes” on Facebook. This makes me warm and fuzzy. Thank you for that.
I’m writing you because...I want to write more stuff for people, and don’t always seem to be in the mood to write fiction.
Let me explain.
Okay. First off, I write a lot. I mean, a whole lot.
This does not mean that I write well. It merely means that I write a lot.
I do this in addition to my job as a middle school librarian. I like being a middle school librarian. We are getting a maker space in the school library soon. I’m excited about that.
If you don’t know what a maker space is: it’s this really cool place where kids can, you know, make stuff. Some of it can be crafts, and some of it can be more sophisticated stuff involving circuits and what have you. This allows the library to draw in kids who may not be strictly academic learners, and, through their interest in putting things together and taking them apart, maybe get them into reading about, say, the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.
I like this. I like this a lot. I’m looking forward to it.
And as I put thoughts together for other new and exciting things I’d like to do with the library--including putting together plans for a renovation that may very well be coming down the pike in the next few years--I write. I often do this for a little bit in the morning while I’m drinking my coffee, and I do it for a little bit during my lunch period, often instead of eating lunch.
I write quickly. I also write in small paragraphs.
I notice that when I read other people’s stuff online that my eyes tend to glaze over when I see a big paragraph. Because of this, even if there’s a complicated idea that I’m writing about, I tend to express the idea over several paragraphs.
I am almost obsessive about these paragraphs being three sentences or less. This has to do, I think, with my seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Manouvrier, who insisted that paragraphs should be three sentences or less. No doubt she was doing this to avoid getting written assignments that were one long paragraph.
It caused a kind of OCD thing in me where I just don’t like paragraphs to be more than three sentences. In fact, I also avoid paragraphs that have anything any more or less than three sentences. Lynn Manouvrier insisted that paragraphs should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and that each of these three sentences performed one of those tasks.
She was also firm in her belief that it was wrong to begin sentences with the word “and.” Sentence fragments were also something she was diligent about avoiding. Because of this, it remains difficult for me to venture outside of these confines.
Still, however, I do. Write enough, and you start to see that it’s okay to break rules sometimes.
It can give the writing a certain pace that moves it along.
And that’s a good thing.
Anyway (I begin many paragraphs with the word “anyway;” it is a crutch, I know), having said all this, it’s probably a good idea to get to the point. You have read for a while, and I honestly do have a point here. And I shall now make it.
When I was in a sci-fi writing class a while back, the discussion turned to what makes someone a writer. I incurred the teacher’s wrath by saying that in the same way filmmaker Robert Rodriguez said “turn on the camera, and press the button...there, you’re a filmmaker,” you are a writer if you write. She did not like that at all, saying that “well, if everyone’s a writer, then no one’s a writer.”
I kept quiet after that.
I’d like to point out that I also found her unpleasant and bitter. That’s just my opinion.
Still, I’ll offer one compromise: you are a writer when you write for someone else you don’t know. If you spend countless hours writing journal entries, maybe you’re not a writer the way that other people call themselves writers. And if you just write one letter after another, maybe you’re not a writer either.
This is not to say that I personally don’t think you’re a writer. Remember, I’m the one who says that if you write, you write.
But I’ll give this teacher this: if you write where strangers read it, you feel much more of a writerish feeling. You just do.
(By the way: Lynn Manouvrier also abhorred starting a sentence with “but” or “however;” she believed that it needed to go in the middle of the sentence. I came to see, however, that a sentence could often feel more “right” if I started it with those words. But only sometimes.)
Anyway (there we go again with the starting the sentence with “anyway” thing), having written hundred of thousands of journal words (perhaps millions), I just figured that it was time to get more of my writing out there. Fortunately, in these digital times, it is now possible to do so. Hence these letters to...well, you, whoever you happen to be.
You may very well be someone I know. This, I guess, means that this is not really writing the way that it would be writing if you were a complete stranger. Enjoy it anyway.
I admit that right now...yes, I’m using you. You’re helping me feel all writerish and stuff. I would have used another word besides “stuff” that would have made this sound more “street,” but do remember that I work in a middle school, and there’s always the chance that one of my students may read this; I have no idea if I’m a role model, but at least I can keep my language clean.
I’m trying to get to the point where these many, many words mostly result in fiction. I just have a ton of ideas for things, and I can’t help but think that I may very well be destined to crank stuff out the way John Creasey or Georges Simenon did, where they just wrote book after book, one after another.
Certainly, if these words slowly became more and more fictional, that would happen to me.
Of course if that is to happen to me, I may want to avoid Georges Simenon’s obsessive need to bed down women (an estimated 10,000 in his lifetime, no exaggeration). I also may want to avoid his hideous family life, which included many, many affairs (surprise), and his daughter committing suicide. Fortunately, I have no children, so I don’t have to worry about the whole daughter suicide thing.
Anyway, as writing a great deal of fiction comes into focus (albeit minus the 10,000 women, the affairs, and the daughter’s suicide), I figured the best way to get going on writing more stuff is to write more stuff and just get it out there.
Hence this. Hope you enjoyed it.
And if you’re one of my students:
John Creasey is an English novelist who wrote, honest, more than six hundred novels.
Georges Simenon was a Belgian novelist who wrote close to 500 novels, including many, many, many short pieces. He was capable of writing 60 to 80 pages of fiction a day.
And yes, the whole thing about Georges Simenon getting seriously busy: maybe not 10,000, as he claimed, but a whole lot. Like, a real, realy, whole lot.
Finally: yes, I like one sentence paragraphs.
No, they don’t always work, but I took many journalism classes, and one sentence paragraphs work in news stories. It carried over to the rest of my writing.
Be careful with one sentence paragraphs, though. Most teachers don’t like them.
But of course, I’m not writing this for a teacher.
This means that I have some leeway.
Oh, shoot, one more thing...avoid beginning a sentence with “like.” Most people frown on it. Still, it can work sometimes, the same way it sometimes works when I write a paragraph that has more than three sentences, and the same way that fragments work in a paragraph sometimes. Like now.
Like, right now.
But for the most part, when you’re starting out, obey the rules, which helps you learn the right time to break them.
I’m going to stop writing now.