the joy of writing

My impulse to write stories and articles was latent until I reached my twenties. It started in a spiral notebook with short narratives and poetry. Much of the time, when I went back to read it over, I had trouble reading my handwriting or understanding the words I had written.

I should explain where this difficulty started. In the first grade, we had these lessons where we were to write sentences to practice cursive style. I tore out each assignment during recess when no one was looking and put it under other papers in the teacher’s trash can. This set the tone for my handling of writing and understanding the English language throughout my formal education. I narrowly passed English grammar, parts of speech, sentence structure, and spelling, and if we had any class in phonics, I completely blanked it out. My only salvation from being unable to put anything on a page was that I started reading at four years old and have read over ten thousand books, fiction and nonfiction, in my life. I usually made a C- grade in English, but I was well known as a book nerd.

We have lost all of my spiral notebook, writing to time. Then, for about a decade, work entirely consumed me, leaving no time for writing, even though I frequently shared stories orally.

In 2003, when I drove trucks for a living, I was driving from Austin to Laredo. I “wrote” what I now consider my best short story in my head while driving. As with much of my writing, it came unbidden to my consciousness and wrote itself. I had a computer at that time and put it in the word processing program. Well, I got the bug and joined a short story writing group in Austin. I bought a bunch of writing books and studied. Over time, I discovered that the writing group didn’t write in a style familiar to me. They criticized every story I submitted for review, not for substance but for style.

I will attempt to explain. They expected the storyline to include exaggerated, flowery descriptions. Such as, “As she walked over the dew-laden grass, sparkling like a fireworks display, feeling the wet blades pushing up between her toes, she saw him looking forlorn and wondered what . . . . .” I am exaggerating, but you get the idea. I am not above adding description in my stories, but I keep it at a level of what most of us might experience. This doesn’t make their writing wrong; many publications require that style for their readers.

Another common story device with this group was leaving the ending hanging, so you would have to imagine where it ended. This type of story in books and movies was not my cup of tea. Stories and movies were complete and satisfying when you reached “The End”. I designed many of my articles to cause readers to look at a question and an answer, which gives them food for thought, but my stories have a definite end.

The writers’ group had some value. I learned that readers’ expectations can change at different times in history. Furthermore, submissions to places that print short stories expect a specific style. That is the style this writers’ group was writing and submitting to these magazines. It didn’t help that my education put me at a disadvantage in the simple ability to write coherent sentences. My drafts required a copy editor to make my stories readable.

On the positive side, I continued to write short stories after that, but less often because of an 80-90 hour work schedule I did for some time. I remodeled a house here in Ellis County. I was “retired” from working for another, and between Farmer’s Market, raising sheep, 200+ laying hens, and gardening, I gradually began to write again. In January 2017, I got an offer to do a weekly column for the Ennis Newspaper. I jumped at the chance, and for the next five years, I wrote a, give or take, 600-word column each week for publication in the opinion section. My wife became my copy editor, which saved my bacon regarding readability. That’s because I married up, an educated woman who excelled at wordcraft.

Later, my wife, for health reasons, could not do my copy editing, so I asked for outside help. For a while, that worked out, but later, I needed another solution. Admittedly, I improved at handling sentence structure and grammar; with spell check, I had gone from terrible to poor. I researched for a computer program to help. Fortunately, I ended up using a program called Grammarly, which was not too expensive. It brought me up from poor to, I will be generous, good. For me, good—it is good enough. Good, good, good, good. There, I broke one of the rules—too bad. I don’t care!

After they sold the paper to new owners, my submissions ended. In the first or second year of writing for them, I created a website to give people I knew who couldn’t access the newspaper a place to read my articles. After I stopped submitting to the paper, I wrote sporadically until the pandemic came along, when I started posting articles and stories again. Since I was no longer limited to 600 words and being vetted by the paper editors, I began writing articles I knew would be rejected by newspaper editors.

One such article no paper would publish was my spiritual journey. It has grown to 21 articles, and more will be forthcoming. I couldn’t figure out how to make the journey’s beginning appear as the first to read on my blog. I had to backdate each article, so it shows up in a sequence, early to late. Now, I plan to combine all the 21+ articles into one post with something like chapters. That is when I get a “round toit”.

I still write on various subjects and post them in the category or categories where they belong. As of now, I have written several that I haven’t edited and published because the rain has kept me out of my garden for a couple of weeks.

Ah, yes, the subject of this article—The Joy of Writing. I know each of you reading this has figured out that writing gives me tremendous joy. And, like an aged wine, it has improved with age, my age. Equal to writing, I get a lot of pleasure from a lively conversation, in which exchanging ideas makes each of us richer for it.

Have an epic day, and leave me a comment, letting me know what gives you joy in life.

Jerry My Mind Laid Bare

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