Guest blogger Craig Hegemann writes about his journey down the writer’s path.
I was new to this writer’s group, so the first order of business was introductions and some casual conversation. We then settled in to review each other’s pieces. I’d done my homework and read all the submissions. It was not the type of work I would normally have sought out to read, but I’d enjoyed the pieces and was impressed with the quality. And then the critiquing began; and all I was hearing was the sound of adults from Charlie Brown cartoons with occasional English words thrown in.
Wha wha wha wha wha, “arc.”
Wha wha wha wha wha “POV.”
I wanted to contribute to the discussion, but all I had was “I enjoyed it” and “It had a good flow to it.” I was way out of my element.
It’s a good thing I didn’t know that much about the group before I joined. I probably would have been too intimidated to go. The group consisted of a freelance writer, a novelist, a sci-fi writer, etc.; people who had been writing for years. It was a friendly, welcoming group, but I was still intimidated.
My experience to that point had been very technical. An engineer by education, I preferred problem sets to essays any day of the week and would tell people I took English as a second language. The last creative writing I had done until recently was as a junior in high school more than thirty years ago—unless, of course, you count the correspondence, performance evaluations, and award recognitions I’d written during my twenty-five year career in Government.
I’ve taken many paths in my life and cannot always pinpoint where they started, but the beginning of this journey is very clear. I was at work reading emails and came across one outlining the criteria for possible early retirement. As a manager, I always read these to get an idea of which of my staff would qualify and may have an interest in retiring. As I read the criteria, my pulse quickened. I read them twice more to be sure, adrenaline flowing. But was I excited or terrified? I sat back in my chair and tried to push the reality into my subconscious, but finally, I had to admit it to myself: I could retire early, and I had no idea what I would do if I did.
While all this is going on, my partner and I were looking for things we could do together. She suggested a creative writing class. What a great idea, I thought. I could write a memoir. I’ve been told that I have a story to tell; that the adversity I’ve overcome and the things I’ve done in my life would be of interest to people. Some may even find it inspirational.
So we took a class and joined a writer’s group, and then took another class and joined a second writer’s group. I’ve learned a new lexicon and some of the technical details and discipline required for successful writing. The support from the writer’s groups to help me refine my stories has been invaluable.
My partner is a great editor and is patient with my lack of command of past and present tense, semicolons, and commas. She is great at helping me remove the distractions of poor technical writing so readers can focus on the story. Getting a first review back from her all marked up, trying to push through those times when ideas don’t flow, and just sustaining the discipline of writing are enough to make me wonder if I will reach the destination I have in mind. It’s a daunting task starting a journey down a completely different path. The endeavor to write a memoir will be full of challenge and uncertainty, and that makes this a journey worth taking.