The Writing Life: The Beginning

How to writeFor as long as I can remember, I loved to write. It was something that “called” to me, so to speak. I can remember being that little boy, sitting comfortably in his room in that modest house in Flushing, New York, black composition notebook open on my desk, pen in hand, scribbling down whatever came to mind. Horror stories, Sci-Fi, Sports dramas, crime stories, what have you. I used to have a lot of fun doing that, especially on days when none of my friends were around or on days when the rain was pouring mercilessly down from the sky. Memories of sitting at that desk, looking out at my neighbor’s driveway, my stereo playing whatever record I was into that week, thinking about how one day I would love to be able to do this one day and perhaps make a living doing it. By that age I was already reading like a fiend (Hardy Boys, Horror books, tons of comic books, World War II novels, mysteries, etc) and even then, I always felt the compulsion to try to write something of my own. I’m sure this is a thought that comes to every person that wants to write. But writing for me was just something I enjoyed back then, something to do whenever I was bored. A creative outlet, in other words. Some kids loved to draw, I loved to make up stories. It was music was always my first love and for many years, writing always took a back seat to that. Still, there were those times where I would lose myself in my own imagination, dreaming up stories, for better or for worse, jotting them down in those hardcover, black and white marble notebooks, then stuffing them in my desk, along with all the other junk that would accumulate there over the course of time.

In my mind, even as far back as then (we’re talking the early-mid 1970s here), I would try to do my best to pursue the things I always loved, and that was always music and writing. Music, of course, was my main priority. The plan was, even then, to make a serious go of it and if that didn’t pan out, I would fall back to “Plan B”—writing. My eight year old mind had it all mapped out: I would be a working musician (read: “Rock Star”), making a living off music, and by the time I was 30 years old, I would have achieved that goal. For years, I put most of my creative energies into music, playing in different bands but the main band I was in made a serious go of it for many years. We actually didn’t do too bad, coming pretty “close” at one point, having had some record labels sniffing around in the wake of “Nirvana-mania” back in the early 1990s. But alas, it was not to be. The band was over by the time I reached 30 years old and I was still nowhere near the goal I had set for myself at eight years old.

Still, the experience had been immensely rewarding, not only in creative terms but in personal terms as well. It allowed me to connect with many many talented, creative people over the years, it allowed me to learn the way the business worked, it allowed me to get in touch with my creative side in ways that I never could have imagined. There was absolutely no descent into depression, no “oh, only if I had done this or that”, absolutely no bitterness. Life happens and I suppose it was losing my father towards the end of the band’s run that put a lot of things into enormous perspective at the time. For the first time in my life, I saw that there were far more important things in life than music. I still continued with the music thing (and still am involved in it) but the prospect of being 30 years old and completely starting over with a whole new project just didn’t appeal to me. After 15 years or so slogging it out, learning how things actually worked, the idea of going through all that again from the beginning just didn’t seem to be something I wanted to do.

So I did what I always told myself I would always do: Implement “Plan B”. Those years were a rough period for me and I suppose losing a parent at such a young age would make things rough for anyone. I was filled with all these conflicting feelings and emotions about things and the rug had been completely torn out from under my feet as far as my worldview was concerned. A heavy “existential” period ensued, punctuated by serious bouts of partying and drinking and meeting many other creative types (painters, photographers, writers, musicians, aspiring models, and a bevy of sorted Hipster douchebag losers) and all the while I was re-thinking what I wanted to do and trying to come to grips with the loss of my father. What better way to get all this shit out than to write it out? So one day, after waking up with yet another massive hangover, I decided was going to make a serious go of it. I was no longer going to scribble these stupid little stories into those composition notebooks, which were only amusing to me, no longer was I going to peck away at the old manual typewriter “willy-nilly” with no serious direction in mind. I was going toreally try, this time. After all, I really didn’t have anything to lose. I was working, thank God, but was still otherwise flat broke, literally scraping by week to week trying to feed myself and make the rent on a hovel carved out of someone’s former garage (known as “The Cave” by some of my closest friends who remember that hole in the wall). It began to dawn on me that I was 30 years old and this is what I had to show for it: Nothing. Time to re-think things.

Armed with an old IBM PS/1 computer (remember those? This was one of the reasons why I was flat broke. You just got to love those credit cards, don’t you?) I one day got up off the couch, nursing a pretty serious hangover (after spending the previous evening literally crawling around the Lower East Side), turned it on and began to write; poetry mostly, getting down all the ideas, feelings, emotions and thoughts that were swimming around inside me. Before long (meaning a couple of weeks), I had enough poems written, a lot of them far more serious than the nonsense I used to scribble down (and sometimes turn into songs). The thought occurred to me to try to see if I could actually get them published. Why not? I thought. What did I have to lose at that point? And since I mainly come from the old DIY punk background, if worse came to worse, I could always do it myself, right? And being that I come from an old DIY punk background, I learned years earlier that there was no shame in going that route if I had to. After all, many bands had done the same thing with regard to their music. A whole musical movement was based on that idea, why not literature?

So I collected the poems, trying to put together something that would hang together as a good little book of poetry, bought the Writer’s Market, and set to work looking for a publisher. Eventually, this little book, “Standing on Lorimer Street Awaiting Crucifixion” (1996), found a home at a small press called Alpha Beat Press, which specialized in post-Beat, underground poetry. I can’t tell you the thrill I felt when I first held that little book in my hand. I had no illusions that it was going to make me some sort of “literary superstar” (not that I even seek that now) but it was a start. A step in the right direction. Just to have something “out there” was enough to encourage me, to keep going, to see what else I could do and could achieve. So I contacted the late Dave Christy, the publisher at Alpha Beat, along with his wife Ana Christy, (a great and talented poet in her own rite) and asked for some advice and asked him for other magazines and journals that I could submit my writing to. Dave Christy was always generous to writers, aspiring and otherwise, and he spent his life helping many writers and poets over the years. He wrote me with a list of places that he thought would be good places for me to send my work. So I did, and was simply amazed at how many of these poems were being accepted. Ok, these journals and magazines may not have been The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, or the Virginia Quarterly Review but it was a start. A step in the right direction. Needless to day, I was bitten by the bug, encouraged and raring to go….

(to be continued…)

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About the Author:

Born and raised in New York City. I am a musician/writer/painter who has poems and short stories published in about 40 magazines and journals throughout the United States, Canada and Europe and also has 12 books under his belt:
"Standing On Lorimer Street Awaiting Crucifixion" (Alpha Beat Press, 1996), "The Terror of Your Cunt is The Beauty of Your Face" (Black Spring Press, 1999), "Street Gospel Mystical Intellectual Survival Codes" (Budget Press, 2000), "Scrape That Violin More Darkly Then Hover Like Smoke In The Air" (Black Spring Press, 2001), "Existential Labyrinths" (Black Spring Press, 2003), "Window Shopping For A New Crown of Thorns" (Lulu Press, 2007), "November Rust" (Lulu Press, 2007), "My Arrival Is Marked By Illuminating Stains" (Lulu Press 2007), "A Symphony of Olives" (Propaganda Press, 2009) and "Divertimiento" (Propaganda Press, 2009). His second novel "Naderia" was released in January 2011 and his third, "Be Still and Know That I Am" (Beat Corrida) was released in September 2011. He is also currently playing guitar and bass for NYC singer/songwriter Linda La Porte. View My Profile

  • Perfect way to start the day with a cup of coffee and this. I wait patiently for the next one 🙂

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  • Thank you Katy! I’m glad you enjoy these 🙂

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  • Excellent, Julian. It’s always interesting to see how writers start their journey. How funny that your dream was to be a rockstar. I had the same dream, too! As for writing, that muse came much later for me. Funny how now I can’t imagine life without doing it.

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  • Hi Janene! Thanks! For the record, I used “Rockstar” facetiously. I never wanted to be a “rockstar” per se, but a musician who earned his living from playing music. Not an easy thing to do -- as it isn’t in any of the arts. But yes, music was my first love and still is to a large extent. I still play, but writing has taken over most of my time now, as I always thought it would as I got older. The writing muse came to me later on as well -- in a serious way, anyway. I’ve always written things but never took it all that seriously until I got a little older. What I love about it is the fact that you can create something in the confines of your own home. There’s no lugging around equipment, for one thing -- and for someone who’s not exactly an extrovert, it doesn’t demand too many (if any at all) public appearances 🙂 I haven’t done any readings yet and to be honest, I rue the day I’ll have to -- but WILL if I must. You’d think being on stage all those years would have softened my “stage fright” but it hasn’t. 😉

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