12.19.2013

writing about your life

When can you call yourself a writer?

Ever since first or second grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I devoured books as a child. I got in trouble for reading. My punishments were often, "Go to your room - and NO READING." I loved being transported to another world and escaping reality. I would often woke up with words in my head that I didn't remember learning, so I would have to look them up. The crafting of sentences and stories, the whimsical turns of phrases, the idioms and similes - all of it appealed to me.

I remember writing tons of short stories on my own time in third grade. I had this colony of imaginary friends called the Jhonsons (yes, the spelling is correct - it's pronounced with a somewhat British accent?). Some of the main characters included Baby Jhonson, Baby Supreme Jhonson, Jhonny Jhon Jhonson, Baby Neetle Pea, Mincho, Ma Olson, Baby Olson, Baby Spit Spot, and Professor Ordinary. They were a tight-knit community of wacky personalities. Their arch enemies were the Johnsons (pronounced with more of a midwest accent?) The Johnsons were always trying to sabotage them. For example, one time, they dumped the contents of a trash can onto Baby Spit Spot's front porch. Naturally, B.S.S. suffered from a fainting spell and ended up in the hospital. All the Jhonsons came together to clean up his house while he was gone.

Anyway, the point of all that is to say that in third grade, I think I was a writer. Mainly because I actually wrote.

Fast forward to high school, and my free time became limited. The more activities that filled my life, the less I wrote. College came along, and I added jobs, a social life, and a challenging credit load, and my writing for fun was down to zero. I could no longer call myself a writer.

The desire to write, however, has never left me, which is probably the reason this blog exists. I often feel a bit narcissistic writing anything about myself, which almost prevented me from blogging at all.

In addition to the blog, I've always wanted to record my family's story if not to publish then at least for posterity. That's why when I saw the book Writing About Your Life by William Zinsser at the library, I knew I had to give it a read.



I'm so glad I did! In the very first chapter, these quotes really stood out to me:

"Whatever we call the form - autobiography, memoir, personal history, family history - writing about one's life is a powerful human need"
and 
"Your head is full of memories longing to be written down. But your head is also full of doubts. Can you bring it off? And even if you do bring it off, will anybody care? Who gave you permission to think your story will interest the rest of us?
Well I give you permission. All writers are embarked on a quest of some kind, and you're entitled to go on yours."  
The book is written in the form of Zinsser's own memoir. Every so often he pauses to let you in on his decision-making process and the technical aspects of writing your personal history. He gives practical advice that could actually be implemented into your lifestyle. Writing a memoir (or even just your blog!) actually seems doable.

I felt a renewed zest to make time for reading and writing each day in order to improve my craft. I want to be able to call myself a writer again, and the only way to do that is to write!

If you are looking for writing motivation and practical advice in the form of amusing anecdotes, I would highly recommend this book.

Happy reading and writing!

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