#IWSG Writing Surprises

The Insecure Writer's Support Group meets (online) on the first Wednesday of the month so the members can "share and encourage. Writers express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been 'through the fire' can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!" You can sign up here.

September's question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?

I've been struggling with this question and still haven't come up with much. I've been leaning toward just writing "no" and moving on with life. That seems to shortchange #IWSG, so I've been continually searching the cockles of my brain for a writing surprise. 

Not much going on in there. Nothing that surprising anyhow. But here goes...

In fifth grade, I wrote a poem called "I Never Seemed to Realize." It was about how much I loved my childhood home in Prosperity, PA. It won an award and I had to read it at a gathering of my classmates and their parents. Afterward, a lot of people approached me and asked if my poem was about death.

It was most certainly not. Death was the furthest thing from my mind when writing. I actually felt physically ill at the thought of anything remotely related to dying. Driving past a cemetery made me sick to my stomach. So my poem wasn't about death at all, but people interpret things in writing. Even the writing of an eleven-year-old.

That was surprising.

My first paid writing job was for a tiny public relations firm in Pittsburgh. My boss was a raving jerk face. When I wasn't busy making follow up calls for news releases that bore no relevancy to the publication they'd been submitted to, I got to write for the very bottom of the barrel accounts. One such assignment was for a Civil War DVD produced by the son of the guy that owned the company that was the firm's biggest account. I think, looking back, the Civil War DVD PR was a freebie. I had to write a 200-word essay to promote the DVD. It was a ready made newspaper article that would be sent around to every little publication in the world.

I took the Civil War DVD home and attempted to use it for inspiration. It was unwatchable. Different men dressed in Civil War uniforms would display artifacts and talk about them. My interest in history has increased since then, but at the time, nothing could have been more boring. I began jumping around through the DVD menu, hoping against hope that something would strike a chord.

I found inspiration in a segment where the costumed man read letters a soldier had written to his wife. A female voice read the response from home. It was fairly mundane stuff, but it reminded me of when my boyfriend (now my husband) was in the Army. We wrote to each other every day. Those letters helped us get to know each other better than a thousand dates watching movies we'd never remember.

I went to work and wrote a heartrending story about Civil War letters from home. It was picked up by exactly two Podunk newspapers before I found another job and moved on. My boss was, after all, a raving jerk face. Still, I'd written a worthwhile story about something that was, at least to my mind, altogether useless.

That was a surprise.

Lately, writing surprises are less positive. I'm continually surprised at my ability to procrastinate. I actually attempted to socialize on Twitter rather than writing this post. Have I forgotten I'm entirely anti-social? Don't worry. Twitter reminded me.

A persistent desire to give it all up is wholly surprising as well. Things are going well, but I can't shake the feeling that I should get a job at Target and forget about being a writer. I've gone so far as to submit a few job applications even though I know those jobs would kill anything I've got going here. I have to keep reminding myself I'm living the dream. Tens of books sold! Positive reviews that aren't even my mother! 

I need to hold out for one more big surprise: feeling like I've earned a place as a real author. If that doesn't happen, I'll definitely take that job at Target.

12 comments:

  1. Well done on the poem. I wrote three poems for my English GCSE because I never read the course books in time and couldn't write the essays. That was brilliant for me. No awards though!

    '...raving jerk face...' made me giggle.

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    1. Thanks!

      It is good to be able to look back at that job and laugh. I didn't see any humor in it at the time.

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  2. Hey! You're one up on me. My mother hasn't even read my book. ;)

    Glad you were able to escape your bad boss. I hope writing starts to pan out for you. I know I work and write, and it's a time sink, because you've gotta fit family into that as well. But I know people who've made it work. :)

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I'm sure the "real" job could fit in somehow. It's just hard to see from my current vantage point.

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  3. Isn't it amazing where we find inspiration? We only have to keep our minds open, and we never know what random thing will trigger our imagination. Best wishes.

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    1. It is! That's where most of my blog posts come from - the random thoughts of an open mind!

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  4. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.
    I wrote a poem that won a contest once when I was kid, but I bearly remember it now. I'm sure no one else remembers it either.
    I got away from a bad boss, but I'm still struggling with a day job and writing. It's a lot, but it's what I do.
    Keep finding inspiration.

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    1. It would probably be fun to find that poem and read it again! I hope you find balance between work and writing.

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  5. Hi. This was well thought out. Much better than the dribble I wrote on this topic :-) I like the first surprise you wrote about. We think we have written something concrete, only to find it's been misinterpreted, which would have been shocking at that young age. But isn't that the beauty of the written word? It inspires and speaks to each of us differently.

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    1. I was pretty shocked and I always think about that when interpreting someone else's writing. Do they mean for all this imagery to mean what I think it means? Of course, maybe the intention doesn't matter so much after all.

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  6. Argh. I know exactly what you mean. It's hard to believe in yourself (and your writing) if you think that no one else believes in you (or your writing).

    I feel like your first lesson as a writer (that other people interpret words differently) was a fantastic lesson! Words and the way in which we use them is always up for interpretation depending on who is reading them and what their life experience has been. Did you do anything differently when writing, after your 11 yr old experience, to make sure you were more clear in your writing, Joey?

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    1. Not so much because of the fifth grade poem response, but I did eventually come to guard my words pretty carefully. I was once involved in a media crap storm (toaster waffles of all things) and since then I'm more aware of the difficulty in conveying humor with the written word and the very different interpretations readers bring to even the most mundane works of bloggery. If I'd have figured that out as a kid, I'd have missed so much angst as an adult!

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