Your Friendly Neighborhood Writer-in-Training
Updated: Mar 14, 2022
Hi. This is my first blog post. You’re reading it for the first time. I’ll call that a meeting.
Let’s get this one out of the gate straight away: I’m an introvert. The reason I mention this is that this—writing about myself—is difficult for me. Let me tell you a story of what it means to be an introvert. Don’t worry, it’s short.
The Perils of Verbal Praise
My day job is in communications. The other day, my boss came up to me and said: “I really think you are great at creating consistent, on-brand social media content.” I was just barely able to look her in the eye and say: “Good.”
I don’t like verbal praise. Or perhaps “like” is the wrong word. I don’t enjoy being praised. This might sound disingenuous, like I’m fishing for it, but I can assure you I am not. I don’t quite know what to do with myself when someone says things like that to me, or tell me what I’m really good at. All I can think of is: I know, you don’t have to tell me. Instead, tell me what I can do better.
Sinking the Titanic
Still here? Good. Here’s the part where I tell you some other stuff about myself.
I’m a middle-aged Swede, and I’ve been writing fiction since I was 10 years old or so. The first actual story I wrote was a twenty-page story about the sinking of the Titanic from the viewpoint of a New York reporter who learns about the horrific events when he wakes on the morning of April 15, 1912. It wasn’t as much a story as a regurgitation of facts about the sinking that I had greedily (and nerdily) read about in Robert Ballard’s book, “The Discovery of the Titanic,” but the important thing was that I framed it as a story.
I handed the story in to my 5th-grade teacher, who was more than happy to read this story that she had not asked me to write. And that’s the way it is. Since then, I’ve traveled the long and arduous route of discovering what kind of writer I am and, perhaps more importantly, why I write.
Writing is Incidental
Why do I write? For a long time, I wanted to be a writer. That was it, that was the ambition. And I kept fooling myself that I could do it without instruction. That’s a mistake. Very few people sit down and churn out a masterpiece without any training. What that training consists of is secondary. I’d go so far as to say that practice is primary, writing is incidental.
We write because we have stories to tell or because we want to impart a message or we love the idea of having all the time in the world to explore our own ideas. Excellent catalysts to become a writer. After spending half a life pondering the question, I think I’ve arrived at my why.
The Best Part of Writing
I want to learn to do better. For every word I write, I find another. For every sentence, another way of phrasing it. For every paragraph, another reason to change it. For each chapter, a chance to gauge its place in the story.
Being a writer works well for introverts like me, because in a way, writing is all about learning what I can do better. I’ve always been eager to grow as a writer, and the only way to do that is to embrace criticism, and embrace it humbly. Which is why editing is the best part of writing (IMO, obviously.)