Writing About Writing

I have published a book. It’s available right here through my site and is called, “Tales From My Sea Bag.” It’s a collection of short stories (Vignette’s) that chronicle my life in the Navy aboard my first ship, the U.S.S. Trenton (LPD-14). But those closest to me know that wasn’t my first attempt at writing. For those of you who don’t know me…I tried writing another book. I took many of the experiences/adventures I had in my early Navy career that I talked about in “Tales From My Sea Bag.” and attempted to write a fictional story around them. Things didn’t turn out as I had hoped and for now I’ve shelved the project.

One thing should be noted, being a writer was not my desire as I was growing up. In fact I showed a serious interest in art and had desires to become a Commercial Artist.  When I was young I drew on anything I could find. If it didn’t move, I drew on it. I recall when living in Hawaii I took an art class in school, it was something I did very well at…maybe at times too good. My teacher used to get frustrated with me because when given an assignment, I was always the first to finish.  When given homework, I would often have it finished before class was out.  It got to a point where my teacher ran out of things for me to do. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in fact my parents encouraged it. I remember my father coming home from work one day with a case of paper (5000 sheets) and said that it was for me to do my drawings on. I went through that case like I was pouring water down the drain. But something happened when we left Hawaii…I slowly started to lose interest. I still drew but not with the voracity I once had.  In fact and sadly once I joined the Navy I did not have the time to pursue my drawing anymore and I guess over time I lost the ability. I still have the very last thing I ever drew. While on mess duty we were having a meeting and while our lead was talking I started to doodle…the result is the below picture.  But now days, even my stick figures look horrible.

Elvis Drawing

But the writing thing…a much different animal all together.  As I think about it the idea for my story was planted as far back as when we lived in Hawaii. My mom bought me my first guitar. Then Elvis burst in to my life. While in High School I joined the chorus in the hopes of maybe pursuing music but when I was no longer allowed to be in chorus (it’s a long story involving my mother. If you want details, it’s in my book) that dream went out the window. So as they say, “those who can’t sing, writing about it.”

The story evolved over the years. But about 18 years ago I decided to put thought to paper. Yes, I said 18 years…being in the military didn’t make things easy time wise. I have more than 3/4 of the story written. It has been an interesting road to get as far as I did.

I wrote on my own and had a little help from a couple of friends. But it’s interesting, those who don’t have a desire to write don’t understand the desire to write. So when I said I was writing a book, they looked at me funny. It’s a look like, “You? Writing a book?” Yeah, me. Why not me? A book is nothing more than a story idea that someone decided to write down. Is it because I am not famous…yet?  Books stores are filled with stories and subjects written by people who are not and at one time were not famous. Stephen King for example…very famous author of horror books was once a nobody. People love his stuff. Actually I’m kind of creeped out as to what goes on in his head on a daily basis. But the point is…all those books came out of someone’s head. So why not me?

Actually, I had given the story to a quite a few people, both friends and family members, all with promises, “Hey, I’d love to read what you’ve written!” Well awesome, let me know what you think. Week one goes by…week two goes by…week three goes by.  Hey, did you have a chance to read what I sent you? “Well, you know, I’ve been busy.” Ah, I see. Well, that would explain why I haven’t heard from you AT ALL lately. Its cool…Thanks anyway.

One thing I have specifically tried to avoid is allowing teachers to read my writing.  Now no offense to my teacher friends out there, I know you meant well and were only trying to help.  See as a teacher reads pretty much anything, their first thought is, spelling and grammar.  I handed this story over to a couple of teachers and they immediately went into edit mode.  No, no, no, no!  I didn’t ask you for that.  I’m was more concerned with content.  Needless to say they lost total interest in the story when I wouldn’t allow them to use their evil red pens of death.

I did have one person who read everything. I only mentioned the book to her. I did not ask her too or remotely hint that she read it. She and I went to high school together and hadn’t seen each other in a good 15 or so years. We decided to have lunch one day and catch up on each other’s lives. The conversation took us too many places including the writing of my book. About an hour or so after we parted ways she called me and said she wanted to read my story. No need to mention I was a bit hesitant to send it to her since I’d been told by so many others the same thing. But she assured me that she (and her husband) would read it while they made a long drive that were about to take. She asked that I print a copy. So while at work (I can admit that now since I’m no longer with that company) I printed the couple hundred page manuscript as it was at that time. We met once again for lunch and I explained where I was going with the story.  A couple of weeks later we met once again. She said she and her husband read the story to each other as each took the wheel and drove. They liked it. So I was like cool, it appeals to men as well. But she did something I didn’t expect. I was amazed…she was serious, she took notes. She had recommendations. I noticed little sticky notes all over the pages where she had written specific notes to herself to pass to me.  I was like finally!!! Someone got what I was looking for. Not just, it’s good or not good, but constructive feedback. As we talked about it, she told me about areas that were good but had nothing to do with the story being told. I was like OK…then she really flipped me out. She said to take what didn’t belong out but to save it and use it for another book. WHAT!!!??? Another book? Are you kidding? Do you realize how long it has taken me to write this one? Another book? I don’t have that much time in life left. She said not to worry, I could do it. And she was going to help me. Well, I was very much encouraged. I thought I was finally going to have the help I needed to finish this thing. So I got back to some serious writing.

Ahh but then the bad news came. Murphy’s law struck…Do I have to explain Murphy’s law?  Anything that could go wrong will.  Some of you may have guessed. Did I mention she was married?  Long story short, the husband didn’t feel comfortable with the situation even though it was strictly for purposes of the book…the result, working collaboration now terminated!!! L Thanks, pal. Boy are you gonna be sorry when I do get published.

It’s been several years but that was the last significant writing I had done.  After that I found it difficult to continue writing but I did accomplish bits and pieces here and there.  And it’s funny, and I don’t know if all writers go through this but I would be working with something in chapter one when suddenly…”ding” a thought…but for chapter five. Wait I’m in chapter one, what’s this chapter five thing?  OK, write it down and get back to chapter one.  So later I pursue the thought for chapter five and then…”ding” a thought…awesome!…chapter twelve.  Oh common!!!!!  I’m in chapter five.  OK, write it down and move on.  OK, now pursuing the chapter twelve thought and then…”ding” a thought…for the other book I haven’t considered writing yet.  How do you write a book? One chapter at a time…not necessarily in order.

Someone then recommended I join a writers group.  Maybe I could get some help and feedback there.  That worked out to some degree.  But there were rules to being in the group.  Everyone was allowed to present their work.  I figured no problem; I already have lots to present.  But you were limited to 1000 words at each presentation.  OK, this would help me learn to say the same things but with less words.  The group was great, I learned a lot.  But I also realized that at the rate we went once per week I would finish presenting my work in the year 2061 when I was 99 years old.  Fortunately or unfortunately the group decided to move their meeting place to a much farther location than where we were at. It was a bit for me to go considering the price of gas and not having a job at the time.  So, I had to let that go…

To kind of help me a long I created this blog.  I thought it would keep me in a writing spirit.  And it did for a while.  I’ve had to change host sights a couple of times so I am hoping I have found a permanent home.

One thing that most recently revitalized my desire to get back to my writing. I came across a couple of people who reignited the still small flame.  The first being my own son who has entered the world of sports writing.  I have become very impressed with his writing style.  It is not that of your typical sports writer.  In fact he writes with an insight very rarely seen in sports.  Now days it’s all about statistics which he does too, but there is a human quality in his writing.  The people he writes about are real, human, not just million dollar numbers on a field of play.

The second person is a young author named Heather Manning. I came across her on Facebook. Let me rephrase that, she is a young published author whose books are in my opinion what great movies are made of.  In my mind had her stories been written in the 30’s and 40’s, they could easily have been a block buster for Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland.  As I read her books, I easily pictured them as her characters.

With all that said…as with most writers I suppose I had dreams of where I wanted to see this story go after I finished and published it.  Dare I say, “Hollywood?”  Well, gotta finish the story first.  After 18 years it’s on a virtual shelf for now. “Tales From My Sea Bag” took it place in priority. But the characters still talk to me now and then. Who knows what the future holds. I stopped setting deadlines as to when I would finish.  I had too many come and go.  I’ll get done, when I get done.  How much longer is 2061?

 

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4 thoughts on “Writing About Writing

  1. Luis, our adventures crossed paths on the decks and in the passageways aboard the Trenton in 1983 and 1984. In my minds eye I can see you with SUNG stenciled above your dungaree shirt’s left pocket. My stint in the Navy lasted only four years (1982-1986). I congratulate and thank you for your twenty years of service. My heart still beats with anxiety when my mind recalls walking up the Trenton gang plank for the first time. I boarded the Trenton with a sea bag filled with Recruit Training necessities; I disembarked with a sea bag filled with memories containing emotions that will last my lifetime. I took to the pen while aboard the Trenton writing prose and poetry. I have that collection today and it literally (no pun intended) describes those memories that fill my sea bag. Thank you for your time, energy and effort to put pen to paper allowing others to get a glimpse into the life of a sailor. I look forward to reading “Tales From My Sea Bag.” Fair winds and following seas, shipmate.

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    1. David, Your name is not immediately ringing a bell. What department were you in on Trenton and how did you hear about the book?

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