January 03, 2021

I'm a squirrel

One of the most surreal/weird things about being a writer/editor and working in media (or as a "content creator" as the kids call it these days) is that every work day for the past two decades, I've woken up in the morning, dumped the contents of my brain onto the web or onto paper, hit "publish," and then... those ideas, words, images, and videos are just out there. Like, in the world.

There's a lot to unpack here, like the responsibility of having a platform and all that (I'm looking at you, media outlets, humans, and clickbait websites that put irresponsible information out there into the world that encourages people to make badly-informed decisions that could impact their own health and lives and the health and lives of people in their communities). For readers and content consumers, I'd encourage you to read broadly, look with your eyes, consider science, think critically, and develop at least some basic media literacy. In the fictional but wise words of Patrick Melrose's very terrible father: "Observe everything. Always think for yourself. Never let other people make important decisions for you." 

But I don't really want to talk about that today. Today I'm thinking about fiction writing. I've never fiction-written in any meaningful way, not even in school. In college I tested out of freshman writing and was placed directly into a freshman (writing) seminar, which I tried to plead out of, asking the college to place me back in freshman writing because even though I'm a really good standardized test-taker, that didn't mean I was good at writing. That request was denied. So I found myself in a seminar about... Cold War spy literature. (What? I know.) It was a disaster. Coming out of a high school that placed overwhelming emphasis on its math and science curriculums, I was unprepared for expository essay writing and had retained almost nothing from history lessons on the Cold War. I barely scraped by in that spy lit class; in my assessment, the professor wrote that I should steer clear of English classes, especially writing, and... that was that. I was complete spooked and never took another college literature or writing class again.

Kind of ironic, then, that I've built a career on writing and editing. It's always been non-fiction, though. Until last week, when I decided to start a (little) personal fiction project of just a few thousand words, just for fun (and a potential learning experience). It feels super-weird, just making things up and writing them down, but also pretty cool, just making things up and writing them down. For the past 20 years, I've only written things down if they had already happened and/or were (probably) true (or "not untrue," ahem, early career at a tabloid newspaper). I'm definitely not good at fiction-writing, and I don't even know if I have the bug, although there's something about writing down whatever I feel like writing down and advancing a story however I want to, just through the act of typing, that feels thrilling. 

So yeah, I think that's all I have to say about that right now: that the biggest/smallest revelation I've had about fiction-writing as a very novice fiction-writer is that, right now, for me, fiction writing is: Making things up and writing them down. Which is a totally new experience. And somehow, after 20 years of writing-as-a-job, feels the same-yet-different and, also, a little bit exciting.