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Sunday, November 29, 2015

In Search of an Outlet

Well November flew by and it's time again for my monthly guest post.

When I left off, I mentioned that I knew early on in life that I liked to write. I mentioned that my wife and I became sort of pen-pals before we met and through our writing got to know each other at a deeper level. For years people told me that they loved my letters and those comments always resonated with me that I probably have a knack for writing. But between the demands of trying to build a career and later, the rigors of fatherhood, it seemed I never had time, nor knew what to write even if I did. I did a little personal journalling, but nothing I'd ever want anyone to see.

One of the cooler things to come out of this time in the writing wilderness, were my "kid journals." When our first child was born, a friend gave us a blank journal and she recommended I journal about our kids' lives. I took the task seriously, so made journal entries after significant life events or emotionally memorable moments.

Three years later, when Ben was born, we bought one to track his life too and I have added to that over the years as well. The plan is to give them to them after they graduate from college. I've often said that, regardless of what else I publish or write, these are my two most important books. It's interesting to go back through some of the entries and read what we were going through at the time. Fatherhood was filled with such joy and trial.

After floundering around for years, not knowing how to tap into this love for writing, I finally enrolled in a class offered through the City of Waukesha continuing education program in 2005. It was titled Writing from your Life and it focused on writing memoir and creative nonfiction. We were encouraged to write stories from our past, so I started a couple of short stories about camping and fishing with my brothers. Little did I know these stories would form the groundwork for my book Dirty Shirt, which would be published nine years later.

I'd like to say that class broke my cycle of writing inactivity and everything came easy after that. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case at all. I didn't follow the class up with anything immediate, and eventually fell away from writing entirely, except for journalling. After all, I thought, who wanted to hear stories from my past anyway? There was certainly no market for it, of that I was certain.

At the same time, I couldn't silence the praises people had given me that rolled around in my head. After a year away, I finally contacted my writing instructor and asked her what she thought I should do. She asked me what I wanted from my writing. By the time I'd hung up with her we determined that I should probably take a class somewhere and see where it leads.

Next month I'll talk about how that call, and the action that came out of it, changed my life as a writer forever.

See you next month!

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea about writing journals about each child's life to be given to them when they are an adult. Too bad more of us don't do it. Unfortunately, if we do baby books, it seems the first child is the only one who had much in theirs.

    Robyn Echols writing as Zina Abbott