Saturday, June 29, 2013

You Say Skitzo; I Say Adaptable

I sometimes think I am a little skitzo, at least in possession of multiple personality disorder, when it comes to my writing. But to not make too much light of the real problems – Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which is what Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is apparently called now – let us just say I am an adaptable writer.

In my career as a writer, I have written just about everything. All worth writing; some worth reading. I have written comic book dialogue as a young child, overly simple war stories as an older child, and my first stab at fiction – bad sci-fi with naughty bits – as adolescent. In the U.S. Navy, I wrote to keep from going nuts on those long days and nights at sea. Deep love letters to a girl whose name I cannot remember; my first short story, a very bad short story, which I still have a copy of; and other poetry and prose of varying degrees of quality.

Coming out of the military, I worked my way through college primarily as a technical writer, rewriting engineering manuals for naval weapons systems for a couple firms in Southern California. The most boring work I will ever do; worse than swabbing ship decks – at least when I was mopping salt water and worse off the metal floors of the U.S.S. Decatur I was outside in the fresh sea air. Government service technical writing was, for me, nothing short of suffocating.

Then came my first journalism effort, before I left SoCal, a story on how the fruit fly was messing with crops. And for the first time I knew I could make a boring story at least readable, and that someone would pay me for doing so.

Over the years since then, I have mostly worked in print journalism, but have done some marketing and PR, and even some sports information. I have also written a bunch and published a few creative things: a ghost story, a critical essay on Norman Mailer, a humorous piece of fiction focused on gay rights and Indian food (no, really). A few poems were put to paper as well, but mostly for my wife’s eyes only as part of an annual Valentine’s Day tradition.

I have half a bloody crime novel that I may finish someday; I have (and am trying to market) a series of short stories about real people you probably don’t know, and I am in the beginning stages of a novel about a sequel to “The Quiet Man’ (again; no, really).

I have made a little money off my creative writing; beer money I like to say. And I still have hopes of making a good chuck of change off the next great American novel, or at least a story HBO makes a movie out of. My bread and butter, however, has been made from print journalism.

And I like to think I can write anything, which brings us to that multiple personality or adaptable writer issue.
In the span of a couple weeks, I wrote three things that could not be more different, two of which made me a little money and the third with the (hopeful) future potential of doing so. For I wrote covered and wrote a high school girls’ lacrosse game story. For On-The-Town entertainment magazine, I wrote a story plugging a Grand Rapids restaurant. For my sanity, I wrote a passage in an in-work fiction novel set in Ireland.

If you are still reading, and at least mildly interested, following are links to those three works. Or just skip them and jump to my conclusion.

After writing that spectrum of things – as well as a poem about an Edward Hopper painting that is a story all by itself – I thought to myself: “Is it a good or bad thing that I try to write such different things?”
And the answer is: yes it is; no it’s not.

I guess my writer’s philosophy is simply this: Write every day. Write what is in front of you. Be willing to write what you are paid to write not always what you want to write.

While some might say that sounds a little skitzo, I say I am just adaptable.

Yes I am; no I’m not.


Patricia Kiyono said...

Unless we always write the same type of thing all the time, I think we're all a little schitzo, even when we're writing fiction. We're always having to get into other people's heads, thinking the things they think and feeling the things they feel. I think your advice is sound; sometimes you don't like what you're writing, but at least you're writing! Great post.

Lynn Doezema said...

I'm sure your adaptability has fueled your creativity in ways you aren't even aware of! Thanks for sharing--it's inspiring!