Writing to Find Myself
decades of words and more words
Humans need stories. We use stories to share our histories, defend our beliefs, and explain our scientific knowledge. Every culture uses narrative, though traditions of form and structure vary.
I grew up loving stories. My father loves radio dramas, especially mysteries and science fiction. My mother relaxes with books and took my sister and me to the library every few weeks during the summer months. Between radio and books, maybe I was destined to want to create stories.
Though I might complain about the writing process, which sometimes feels like a struggle against the blank spaces on a page or screen, I feel a mix of relief and satisfaction when a work is completed. When the words are right, you know it. It’s as if you can sense the future reader enjoying the flow of words with you.
Writing It All
I have tried to write almost every genre imaginable. As my writing portfolio demonstrates, I’m not afraid to try anything — though I probably I should be. Whenever I encounter something new, especially something unexpected, I want to see what I can do with the form. Total disasters occur, so horrible they become amusing, but there are also some mild successes. From these experiments I learn more about what it means to tell a good story well.
The lessons I have learned, my wife and I have incorporated into the Tameri Guide for Writers. The Tameri content will never be complete because I will continue experimenting until I can no longer write, type, or dictate words.
My first attempts at writing were short stories featuring animals. The realms of children’s literature are populated by talking forest creatures, farm animals, and mythical beasts. It is only natural that fables and fairy tales inspired my first stories. A class project introduced the idea of making small books, binding them with construction paper and electrical tape. In a box labeled “Notebooks” I have three of these books. My fourth grade teacher introduced an improvement to the process: laminating the covers.
Tameri is Born
By the fifth grade, my confidence (ego) was great enough that I knew I would be a great author someday. Whatever I lacked in natural talent, I certainly compensated for with ego and set forth writing short stories, poems, and scripts.
The first play I had “produced” was presented to my fifth grade class using puppets. The play, Zegma, depicted political corruption in a far-away galaxy. For some reason I found political corruption interesting at the age of ten or eleven. The script is 21 handwritten pages, running about ten minutes. I recall writing other plays, but this was the first presented to an audience greater than my sister and a collection of stuffed animals. Audience reaction was mixed, especially when the corrupt political leader died at the end of the play.
My debut as a produced playwright encouraged me to write longer and more complex works. Using Zegma as a foundation, I began developing a series of stories set in a fictional solar system and focusing upon the political intrigues within the various governments. After completing a few of these stories, I labeled the spiral-bound notebook “Tameranean Chronicles,” a reference to the planet Tameri on which most of the events occur. My last Tameri story was written before 1983. I am rewriting the chronicles as a series of novels, without changing the storylines.
Junior High: Poetry and Journals
While I was in junior high, the school district published an annual collection of student works. I had one or two poems included and immediately decided I could do much better. There were several classmates with more developed skills than I possessed; I realized practice was the only way to catch up and, ideally, surpass some of my peers. I knew they were good — I wanted to be better.
Since approximately 1982, I have kept journals of poetry. The only form of writing I have maintained with any regularity is journaling. The journals are handwritten into spiral-bound notebooks. Some of the entries are purely tests of my skills as a poet, while other are quite personal. Having kept these notebooks since the age of twelve, I can look back and see how my writing has changed. My penmanship changed, too.
I am uncertain if I ever matched the skills of some classmates. I attended school with some gifted and creative people. At least I have never stopped trying to be a better writer.
High School: Journalism, Poetry, and More
During my sophomore year of high school, I enrolled in journalism. It was my first experience with non-fiction, and I came to admire those reporters, columnists, and scholars who are masters of creative non-fiction. I dreamed of working full-time at a newspaper or magazine, later majoring in journalism as an undergraduate.
My interest in poetry also continued to develop during high school. An Advanced Placement English instructor, Dr. Ted, kindly critiqued and edited my poetry, encouraging me to read the classics of poetry. With blunt honesty and a Parker fountain pen, Dr. Ted taught me that fewer words often express more.
I filled copier paper boxes with stories, poems, and more during high school. To this day, I still prefer spiral notebooks to computer screens.