Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My first foray into writing

When I was younger, I had a lot of problems with allergies and my sinuses. But we didn't know that back then. I wasn't tested for allergies until later in high school. I would contract bronchitis nearly yearly or get a sinus infection. Mostly it was justs a lot of sinus headaches I didn't know were sinus headaches. Had I known I could have alleviated a lot of pain.

One time back in September 1970 when I was in tenth grade I was sick again with bronchitis, out of school for a week, and on codeine cough syrup medication. The codeine was liquid, colorless, but definitely not tasteless. It was in fact one of the foulest tasting things I had ever had to take. But it did help with avoiding coughing and it put you into a kind of dream state.

The cough was excessively loud and about the same in the pain department. My doctor said he was also giving it to to me to keep me sedated so I would stay in bed that week. My mother made sure I did just what he said. I was climbing the walls in short order. But I stayed in or on my bed.

Late Monday morning of that week my mother came into my bedroom to say she was going to the Tacoma Mall. Going to the mall was still a big deal back then. As I was to stay in bed all week, she asked if there was anything I wanted from the to keep me from going nuts. Growing up she had always been good when one of us were sick, to give us little gives to cheer us up.

At first, I said no. Then I remembered listening to the radio a few minutes before she walked in. "Wait a minute," I said, "actually, yes." Black Sabbath had just released their latest album "Masters of Reality." I figured I had little chance of her getting me that album, but it was worth trying.

So I asked. It was an all black album with a raised pressing of the album title in black on the cover (highlighted in gray here so it's easily seen). I was pleasantly surprised when she actually returned with it!

Actually, she surprised me at times with the things she would let me have. Just ignorant of what it was I guess. Not that I think MOR was a questionable album for a kid at that time. But some did.

As you can see, the words are easy to read. But the copy I got, must have not had much or any coloration to it as it was very cool and mysterious in being a little hard to read. As I remember it anyway. This is how I remember it:

At the time, I belonged to a science fiction book club. I had recently received Frank Herbert's book, Dune. He was a local author growing in popularity. I had no idea what the book was about but the write up sounded interesting to I thought I'd give it a shot. I read a lot as a kid. I read sixty novels just in 1968 alone, but that's another story for another time. Mostly because each book only took me about an hour.

A side note...many years later, I had considered driving to Frank Herbert's house to ask for an interview for my college newspaper. But in the end I was so intimidated by the idea, I didn't do it. Then he died a couple of years later. I've regretted not going every since. Just goes to show you that sometimes when you have a stupid but cool idea, just do it. Think about it, later.

So, I spent that week in bed, on codeine, listening to Black Sabbath over and over as I digested the now famous book about Paul, Muad Dib. When I finished it, I felt something had changed in me. Some of that was because I had never read anything quite like it. The closest thing I could think of at the time was Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy which in the end became a seven book series and is now known as the Foundation series.

Anyway, when I finished the book I was stunned by what I had just experienced. I realized by Tuesday that I was reading it too fast so I slowed down, taking breaks so it would last throughout the week. The breaks were misery. I just wanted to read it to the end. Start reading and never stop. I found Dune amazing. So much more so in my being on "Spice" myself. That is I mean, codeine. I lied there on the bed for like an hour, just staring at the ceiling, thinking about it.

Finally, I found a need to write. To create my own universe. Dune became my inspiration to write my first fully completed science fiction short story. So I started in writing. That story became over the next day or two, "Ten Steps to Shado-kan-dom". A rather valiant effort for my 10th grade mind, but rather sad from my perspective now.

In the years following I had a dream that I kept pushing back in my mind. How cool would it be to write stories? But, I couldn't do that! Could I. I mean, I wasn't a writer. I didn't have the talent, nor the skill. I lacked the immense knowledge and understanding of the mechanics of language and grammar one must need to be a writer. Just thinking about all those rules my high school English teacher tried to shove down our throats was a killer.

Life sometimes offers us the strangest asides from the path we're heading on. It really pays for us to pay attention to it.

It was years later when I finally entered college. It was after years in the military and even then, not until a college English composition professor told me that I really needed to write more and keep at it. He said I had a mind that was shooting sparks out from it and I really needed to be a writer. He said not to worry about the things I was worried about like grammar, fear, or whatever. He said, just write. Writers write. And besides, that's what editors were for anyway.

And so, years later, here we are. Like some like to say, "Seek, your bliss." Go for it.

And so I have...and now have my own books others can read.

And screenplays. Because, why stop with books?

And other books and screenplays.

Cheers! Seek your bliss!

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