If any of you are writers, or people looking to be writers, have any of you, after a certain amount of time, heard that old phrase: “Gee, you should really think of joining a writing group!”
Do you any of you barf a little in your mouth? ‘Cause I do.
I see writing as a personal game, like playing a match of Uno by yourself–and, yes, I realize that analogy sucks, but it’s the best I could come up with, so there. You sit at a desk, or lie on a couch, all alone while doing the craft, anyways, so why would you need other sitting experts to feed you their opinions on the matter?
Now, before you accuse me of having not attended any writing groups whatsoever, let me tell ya, I have. I will also tell you, it was not that fun; granted, my first experience of being in a group was when I was a third grader in Montana, but…
Yeah. Montana. The Big Sky State; although, personally, I don’t see the difference between their sky and the rest of the friggin’ sky. I don’t know, maybe the gravity’s a little off there. I was eight years old, for crying out loud; I wasn’t that observant.
I attended an elementary school right beside my mom’s resident home…where she worked–she didn’t live there. It was a nice school where I made a lot of friends; however, when I wasn’t making great friends, I was reading books and writing short, short stories. These things were a page and a half, two, if I had a brilliant idea.
‘Course, I got into trouble more than a few times with the teacher, since, apparently, I should have been working on the assignment instead of writing about this kid named Jim, who traveled to the Bermuda Triangle and blew it up.
Yeah, good going there, Jim.
My friends, on the other hand, thought the stories were spectacular, and the ones sitting at the same table as me asked if they could help write the stories. Yes, folks, I had my first collaborative writing session in the third grade. Cheers for me.
The months passed while we were writing these stories, and get this: a total of three students, including me, got to be working on stories together. Jim gained the friends, John, and Jean, I think, because, I guess, my friends felt they had to name their characters “J” somethings, too. Again, I don’t why. I was eight years old, people.
In November, maybe, our teacher called our class together to inform us of a visiting author to the school. This author was going to teach a writing course for an hour, and he was going to do it for a select amount of students from each class.
In our class’s case, it was three students.
So, the big day arrived, at last. The author was scheduled for that afternoon, and our teacher had yet to choose her special students.
The tension was thick as she paced around the classroom, hand on her chin in that I’m-an-adult-and-I’m-thinking manner, and she ended up picking me–I was genuinely surprised at this–a couple of my collaborative writing friends, and another guy who occasionally wrote sci-fi detective stories, which, I believe, he only wrote to get picked.
I remember, after I was chosen, this one rude girl in the class said, “He’s only getting to go because he writes stories.”
Well, I mean, duh. Did you think I was gonna get picked if I had spent the year working on a bust of the Wright Brothers?
When the time came, the lot of us filed down to the library to see this writer dude; by the way, he was a children’s author–and, so, on getting there, I sat down in the furthest seat from this humming projector screen and watched the other kids find their seats and pull out their handy-dandy notebooks.
Then the writer dude entered.
I can’t remember all of it too clearly, but I know he had a satchel of papers and more papers that he set on the desk; and then he told us how excited he was to see us–yeah, sure, dude, excited to see a bunch of spaced-out third graders.
I was prepared to learn the most helpful writing tips in the world, had my pen ready and everything; and the first thing this writer dude did was to tell us to draw a picture. He didn’t say a word about punctuation, or showing and not telling, but a picture.
I sketched my favorite character at the time, a little dude with a Jack-O-Lantern for a head who I called Super Mask, then I prepared myself, again, for writing advice.
Once more, Writer Dude told us to draw a picture.
For christ’s sake, man, I hadn’t come down there to sketch comic book characters! I had come down there to learn how to perfect my craft–and these funny drawings were not cutting it.
The course ended, thankfully, and I left with two thoughts: one, how pointless that had been; and, two, I wondered what kind of stories were coming out of the girl who had sketched mutated unicorns.
There’s an idea.
So, that one writing course in third grade, in a way, formed my future perceptions of groups, in general. You can call that generalizing, or just plain stupid; but I like to call it thinking smart.
And here at Thoughts of A Southpaw, that is what we do.