I’ve been doing email since all I had to do it with was a command-line Compuserve account in 1992. Then Prodigy; then Compuserve went graphical with a release for Windows 3.0; I tried AOL. Then I discovered the Internet under the "internet," as served up by all these services and used whatever email client and USENET newsreader I wanted — and later a web browser.
But I’d been writing in journals, writing long letters to people, and then writing in a word-processor after I acquired my first computer in 1990. One friend (see previous blog entry) once received a 13-page, single-spaced letter written in Word 1.0, in 1991 — in response to his one-pager written on some Mac thingy. That’s how long that discussion has been going on.
I just like to write. And when I think about that, I always think of two power-company engineers who went to our church when I was a kid; I looked up to them both. They both had advanced engineering degrees and important jobs. One was clearly smarter than the other in technical terms. As a hobby, he built HAM radios and all sorts of other things. He was the kind of guy who could invent something electronic. The other could apply it.
But the other could do something else. He could communicate verbally and in writing. He could write. This means that he could do more than what his 24-hours per day allow him, because he can direct others and communicate to them in an effective manner, leveraging his time and delivering to his employer far more value than the other, smarter guy who was a bit shy, self-conscious, and not a good communicator. Consequently, this guy, though less of an engineer, had a far more important (and high-paying) job directing (by communicating) other engineers.
The human condition is such that we have little choice but to communicate in some fashion. Those who do it the best, and the most, get ahead of those who don’t. It’s just that simple. If you can’t communicate, you can’t compete with someone who can. They will run circles around you.
Alright. I have two unusually bright and intelligent nephews. I’m not just saying that. These two brothers — only a couple of years apart — are just different in terms of smarts. One’s a little geeky (in the sweetest way), and one’s salt-of-the-Earth, but both are smart as whips. I could keep you reading all day just describing the things that used to come out of their mouths at the age of 4 and 5.
At the same time, I’ve been prodding the both of them to write. It’s of critical importance. Today, I get an email from Tim, the older of the two.
Hi, it’s Tim. I remember when you said that I should start writing to improve my skills in this area so I was wondering if you if you could please send me an e-mail telling me how I can start a blog like yours. One of my favorite things to do is to discuss politics, so I’m thinking of doing this so I can voice my opinion while practicing my writing about something for which I have deep passion. Thank you very much.
I’d call that a start, and it warms my heart to no end.
the next thing I write will be that email. I think Google/Blogger ought to suit you just fine.
Now, what you want to write is completely up in the air. I don’t write fiction. I haven’t even taken a serious stab at it, though I do have the desire to try my had at some short stories someday. From my perspective, it’s magnitudes more difficult — as it includes many more elements than does non-fiction, opinion, or technical writing. I’d say that if you can competently write fiction, then you can write anything. The converse is not necessarily true. But it’s up to you, and if you were to have a passion for writing fiction (difficult), that would probably end up better for you than writing non-fiction (less difficult) if you don’t care for writing it. At your stage of formation, the important thing is to write about something.
An aside; in college I knew I kinda liked to write, but didn’t have much experience at it. By that time, I’d read quite a lot of fiction, but mostly non-fiction — and a lot of the non-fiction was things like auto mags, science mags, and books on amateur cosmology and physics. There was a required course for my business degree: Technical Report Writing. The funny thing is that I didn’t think a lot about the course, or give it an unusual effort, but I was pulling down almost effortless ‘A’s on all the reports. And then for the grand finale, I wrote a large report on the Navy’s new (in 1984!) F/A-18. I was an NROTC Midshipman, so I had access to lots of unclassified information and I wrote a report. Another ‘A’ with raving nice comments from the professor. He really liked my heavy use of (pre-defined) acronyms. Hey, it was a technical report, and what’s a technical report without copious use of acronyms?
Well, perhaps the professor was off his rocker for flattering me as he did, but I think that experience is what really solidified my lifelong passion to write. There will come a time in like when it’s time to stop seeking approval, but when you’re being educated, it’s an essential part of gaining the confidence that leads to competence.
But for you? Just write. Write about whatever you want to write about, because that’s the only thing that will keep you at it. You’ll need to read a lot, too. I look at it this way: I can study how to write, or I can read and kinda get it by "osmosis." Hell, I don’t know, Tim, but it seems to work. And I don’t overly worry about meticulously correct grammar and structure either. It’s the words you use. String them together and punctuate them in your own developed style. That’s what I do, 90% of the time. Just make sure it’s good. Read what you write over and over. Edit it continuously. Some may not realize this, but I edit blog posts that are already published, and on the longer, more complex posts. sometimes a dozen edits over time. If it’s an edit for style, I just change and republish. If it’s a factual element or correction, then integrity demands that I post a correction or update.
Alright, then. Get to it, and email me something. I don’t want you to be tentative about it, so after this, I’ll only talk about it here if you want me to. But if you email me something really sensational, I might publish it anyway. No firm deals.