A week and a half ago, I started a writing class via Zoom. As an informative question and icebreaker, the half a dozen students were asked to describe their relationship to writing. I didn’t give a full answer then because it would have taken more time than others who didn’t ultimately give long answer, and because I was there to learn, not tell about myself and my writing. However, I thought it’d be a good topic to write about here, if, for no other reason, to get it straight for myself.
I’m on a two-year journey to develop my writing so as to put towards a memoir about my experience as a Vietnamese child refugee. I’m not sure yet whether I hope to finish a draft by then, or to start one by then, but I have a feeling it’ll be the latter, which will make this journey longer than two years by journey’s end. I do hope I will find a love for writing that I will keep for the rest of my life, more than I’ve enjoyed doing it over many years now, and much more seriously as I start and finish polished pieces to enter into writing competitions and to submit for publication consideration. We’ll see about that yet, but I do know I will enjoy writing for the rest of my life in some capacity or another.
In 2021, I am trying to do about 500 words or more of writing for at least six days per week or 85.7% of days, regarding which I am at 96.3%. This frequent writing is the constant and deliberate “practice” I need to improve my writing, in addition to reading writings that I admire and/or think from which I could learn something about the craft. I am not too particular about the quality of the writing I do each day because as Jerry Seinfeld pointed out in a remarkable interview with Tim Ferriss, unless you’re an absolute natural at something (which I am not at writing), there’s going to have to be a lot of bad pieces to start before you get better. There’s no way to avoid them except by producing them so you might as well get to it, and diligently, to get them out of the way as soon as possible. That’s not to say you just write without self-analysis, getting feedback, etc. to help you know where to improve and how, but you really do just have to produce those bad pieces and get them out of the way.
For me, I hope those bad pieces are mostly in these blog post rather than the more “serious” writing competition entries I am doing in parallel to this “warm-up” writing. I am super, super grateful people read these posts consider what I think they are! I just hope the get something useful and/or entertaining out of them every now and them. I do hope, though, to share some of my current, better writings as soon as they are eliminated from competitions, or perhaps if they get shortlisted and posted elsewhere. So despite not caring too much about the quality of writing I do each day, I do try to dedicate some effort each day I write to the more “serious” kind of writing, where I craft a lot of it, from wordsmithing to plots to character development, writing styles, etc. rather than the “warm-up” kind, as I call it, which is on this blog. I just don’t get on my case much if not much is there on some days because I’ve had enough days where things just flow, and sometimes, I feel like I just have to wade through the bad days to get to the good ones.
As for what I write, I’ve been aiming to do vignette style writings here. However, I haven’t been good at sticking to that, writing all kinds of content from instructions, reflections in answers to big picture or life questions, journaling that is different from vignetting, in my eyes, of being more casual and/or too personal. I will try to do a better job in the future at producing more writing vignette as the current blog tagline is in 2021. Otherwise, for serious pieces, writing competitions motivate me like nothing else, even if I might well be out of my league at this time. It’s the possibility of doing well and the challenge against others in the competition that lights my fire. It’s the “hope” in the possibility of doing well, no matter how long the odds, if you will, that is my fourth Signature Strength (traits to display that makes someone happy pending their results on the VIA Character Assessment). The writing involves creativity that is my top Signature Strength, but that’s not the driver since I could do all kinds of stupid writing exercises, or even good ones, from all sorts of courses and programs. I just find no motivation for a grade, if one even got that from some courses, or other student feedback. I’ll take my own analysis, and judge feedback where available, over random student analysis. I might be new-ish to writing, but I am well-read enough to know how to critique better than a random person in a class most of the time. Know thyself, right? Well, here, I sure do!
I have been averaging a few entries into a contest a month so far. Nothing expensive to keep things manageable financially. I might not have the salary of a starving writer, but I certainly try to keep my competition entry fees to that of one so as not to waste my money. I also only enter competitions for which I have entries I am excited about putting forth to see how they would do, rather than just any old content for the sake of entering. No! As one who likes to get good value for all his money spent in life, fees for writing competition entries gets no exception! I have passed up on contests where I had intended to enter for what I deemed lack of a sufficiently quality piece, in my judgment of my own writing, so I know I can be objective and keep things under control on this matter.
Finally, the writing competitions provide me with variety for writing “assignment” topics, and limitations to sharpen my creativity rather than “free for all” sort of competition where anything goes. I intentionally avoid those, to be honest. So far, I’ve entered competitions fiction and nonfiction, from 300 words to 3500 words for limits, one with postcard pictures having something to do with the story, and one 50 word max poem contest that I didn’t make past the first round. The others will be due starting in June, by which time I should start to get results back monthly from all these competitions. It’s like sowing some seeds each month. For a while, you won’t see anything. However, soon enough, some will sprout out of the ground, and when the first ones do, new ones will sprout each month. You just hope you’ll catch them with something blooming, rather than something that’s just going to die off.
So that’s my general relationship to writing at this time, for goals, routines, rationale, and how they all fit together. Can you see now why I didn’t share most of it during that first class icebreaker? 🙂