Thursday, December 04, 2008

Writing about Writing

01.27.2011 Note—this entry was written back in 2008 when I was apparently going through a period of not using proper capitalization. Instead of fixing it, I think I'll just let it be—a glimpse into someone who apparently didn't feel important enough to capitalize "i" (or someone who thought it was really cool not to capitalize—I can't recall).

when i was in 1st or 2nd grade, i was supposed to read a book and write a book report about it. well, i didn't. i don't remember why, because i've always loved reading. but i just didn't. so i made up a book and wrote a book report about it. i don't remember the plot of the book, but i do know that it involved mice.

in 1984, we went to disneyland for my 7th birthday (coincidentally, 1984 was donald duck's 50th birthday and he's always been my favorite!). i was so enamored of the matterhorn and its scary abominable snowman that i wrote a story called "night at switzerland" (how i knew the matterhorn was in switzerland at age 7 is beyond me—perhaps i asked my parents?). in this story, the abominable snowman terrorizes an old lady who ends up stabbing him with her hair pins.

luckily, my parents kept this story, along with others, that i actually made into books. i put the pages of the story in between construction paper and draw covers for the books and sometimes illustrate the stories as well. i love looking back at them and seeing how creative i was as a kid.

i wrote the longest story i had ever written in 3rd grade, about the train tracks behind my house and a scary ghost that followed me and my friend sarah. it doesn't read so well, but hey, i was 8. it wasn't super long, but it did have multiple chapters.

in 4th grade, i wrote a story that got me into the young authors' conference. it was about the jungle and it involved lions and gorillas and other jungle animals. the speaker at the conference was the guy who wrote some story about paul bunyan. we all got an autographed copy of the book. i was the only one from my class that went and my mother made me sit next to my old pre-school friend, julie, who i hadn't seen since pre-school since i had moved away and now we attended different schools. she was already with a friend and she was way cooler than i was. needless to say, i felt like a huge dork. however, because my story was selected, it was put into our elementary school library for people to check out. no one but me ever did. i think i ended up stealing it and then writing in a bunch of due dates on its library card to make it look like it had been checked out a lot.

subsequent years are kind of hazy, but it's possible i refused to write stories for submission to the young authors' conference because of the horrible time i had there or i did write stories and they were accepted, but i just refused to go or i wrote stories, but they were not accepted. in any case, i never went to another young authors' conference again.

i did, however, still enjoy writing. i don't think i ended up writing much fiction in junior high (at least that i saved), but i did write a paper for my friend deanna that was about my cat caesar and his squishy skin and bladder that was as hard as an orange. i'm not sure why deanna would ever write about my cat, but she didn't seem to care that i wrote about him. and neither did our teacher.

i wrote some papers in college too—for my friend jodi. i have no idea what they were about, but i think they got her good grades. college was just a time of abundant writing—lots of papers on lots of subjects. not nearly as much fun writing, though.

because i thought i wanted to be a dietitian, i took a whole bunch of nutrition and science classes in college. there was not much time to take cool classes about writing (unless you count technical writing, which i do not) or foreign languages (although i did take a year of spanish). however, i did still get in a LOT of writing. after college came grad school and more writing. about nutrition.

when i started working as a dietitian, i found the only parts i enjoyed were figuring out patients' tube feeding and TPN needs and making patient education handouts. the tube feeding and TPN stuff has nothing to do with writing, but more to do with math. not that i really enjoy math, but i do find some calculations fun to do. anyway, my enjoyment with the handouts should have clued me into the fact that i still loved to write and that i should do so more often. but it didn't.

after i couldn't stand working in nutrition any longer (i hated the one-on-one contact with patients, i hated the fact that they just didn't care, i didn't care myself what they were or weren't eating, i felt i just didn't know enough to be considered an expert, etc, etc), i decided to work in a record store. mainly because i was dating a musician and i decided that i wanted to work for a record label and thought this would be good practice. that didn't pay the bills, so i had to add on a second job of admitting patients to an urgent care center. fun!

as you can tell, neither of these jobs anything to do with writing creatively. and so, while they provided a welcome relief from nutrition, they weren't making me happy either. finally, because both of those jobs together were still way less paying than being a dietitian, i decided to find another nutrition job.

luckily, i found a job as a "nutritionist" (i put that in quotes because there is no real meaning behind that title—anyone can call themselves a "nutritionist" and get away with it) at technically, it would be answering nutrition questions about dr. weil, the zone, pritikin, and kathy smith vitamins. at first, it was a dream come true. all i had to do was answer emails and phone calls and spit back information already provided by dr. weil, dr. sears, dr. pritikin, and kathy smith. we weren't allowed to give our own opinions! it was perfect because i always felt that my nutrition knowledge was lacking (even though i had a master's degree in it!) and because i was making more money.

not long after i started, it was made abundantly clear that i wasn't just a nutritionist, i was also a customer service representative. so i had to answer calls and emails about when orders were going to ship, or why is this an auto-ship program, etc. in addition to questions about calcium and side effects of supplements. i had enough of that kind of stuff when i worked in a mall and i was not a fan of those types of duties. i became very unhappy in my work and remembered why i quit nutrition in the beginning—i mostly just didn't care about other peoples' health. not that i don't wish everyone in the world a very happy and healthy life—i do! but i care about what food i eat and what pills i take and not what others do.

i hated my job, but didn't know what to do. i joined a weekly class in seattle that met to discuss ourselves and our job history and determine what kinds of things we might enjoy doing for a career. it was more touchy, feely than just taking some quiz that tells you what you're supposed to be and i really did enjoy it. everyone in my class told me that i was really creative and a good writer. i agreed with them (while still kind of doubting them because i had super low self esteem), but never decided to pursue any kind of creative or writing job.

luckily, i soon found a new job within the company, but in the marketing department. it was something new and it was an entry level position, so i didn't need to know anything about marketing (which was good because i didn't). i loved it from the beginning. it was more calculations (yay!) and involved some slight creativity (such as which products to choose for different gift guides).

last year, we visited MSN to show them our hot products for holiday and they mentioned they wanted content from their partners to put in their "shopping advice" section. something told me to speak up, so i did—i offered to write content for and MSN was happy and so were my bosses. and me—i was ecstatic. it felt great. i would be able to write and keep my current job. fantastic!

so i wrote 20 articles for MSN—just simple, themed articles like "choosing a quality electric shaver" (the WORST article to write ever—mostly because i don't care about men's shavers) and "smoking cessation: which products to choose". it was very exciting to see my articles on MSN—complete with my name!

after that, sometimes we'd pitch editorial ideas to MSN and they'd want me to write an article around it. one such idea was highly rated as seen on tv products. that article was on their homepage, with a huge slide. tons of people who went to MSN that day saw my article and my name! it was so awesome! and we got tons of orders from it too. everyone was happy.

i've written a lot more articles for MSN (and they also appear on AOL, Yahoo, and about products we sell on and the articles are also on our sites (however, our creative team edited them first—they heavily edited the ones—and that kind of hurt my feelings, but it really shouldn't).

even though it was rad to be able to write in my current job, i grew tired of writing about products i've never seen or tried and wanted to quit and work somewhere else that i could write as my primary job, but write about stuff i truly cared about. i kept looking for new jobs daily for a looooong time, but with no luck. i had even told people at work that i was planning on leaving. however, i think i was just unhappy in life. i was depressed without knowing it and feeling uncreative and stifled and lost and sad. it was felt in all areas of my life.

i finally decided to get on meds for depression, which helped a lot. but, not long after that, i decided that anti-depressants were not for me and i weaned myself off of them and worked on my depression by attacking my low self esteem and changing the way i thought about myself and everything. it made a huge, huge, huge difference and i'm happier now than i've ever been as an adult, maybe even happier than i was as a kid.

one of the steps to becoming happier is to do the things that feed your soul, the things that make you the happiest. writing was definitely one of those for me. so i was determined to write a lot more! however, things don't always work out like you plan.

i had some things going on in my personal life that were still kind of making me sad sometimes and i hadn't completely overcome my low self esteem. i started to doubt my skill as a writer and to dread writing articles for work. because i kept telling myself that i sucked and that writing these articles was such a drag, i no longer enjoyed it. i started to put off writing and in some cases, even flat out refuse to write. it wasn't a case of writer's block, it was a case of not wanting to write.

so, thank the sweet Lord that my sister made me read the "twilight" series. i read through those books so fast and enjoyed them so thoroughly that it gave me the desire to write again. i had this idea for a book awhile back (i even wrote the first chapter), heavily influenced by a couple of tv shows i love and another series of books i love, but i hadn't worked on it in so long. suddenly, my idea still sounded good and i wanted to work on it some more.

and i started reading "bird by bird" by anne lamott and was incredibly enthused by it (well, not like i've gotten far, but still, the introduction and first chapter were really inspiring). my creativity is dying to come out!!

but i still find it hard to write those articles for work, to work on my book, to even update this blog or write short stories and post them to my profile. i tell myself it's because i'm busy—work is hectic during the holidays, it gets dark earlier, my mom is in town and i spend a lot of time with her, etc, etc. i don't know why i'm resistant to writing. i know i enjoy it. i know i'm good at it. i know it's good for me. so why?! why?!

it's amazing when you have to force yourself to do the things you like to do. i'm not one of those people who is always trying to do things for others and puts herself last. just the opposite—i always put myself first. maybe i just care too much about what other people think and maybe i still doubt my talent as a writer and i don't want to expose myself to criticism. or maybe my ego is trying to stop my higher self from being in charge (i read a lot of hay house books, if you couldn't tell. they're incredibly insightful and have helped me immensely).

in any case, i have decided to do just that—force myself to write. every day. it's what they tell you you have to do. so i will!