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.