Writing Walks 2 – How I Became a Writer & How We’re Always Writing Transcript

Welcome to episode two of Writing Walks. I’m your guide, Alex C. Telander It is 7:41 on October 3rd. And today we are at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Walking Trail, not too far from where I work. There’s a lot of traffic in the background cause it’s right off of the main kind of big road here for everyone going to work this morning. Today I’m going to start talking about what got me into writing and kind of how I started writing, where it all kind of began for me. Now I’m always kind of jealous of my wife because she seems to have a really good memory for remembering so much that happened to her as a kid in extreme detail it seems at times. A lot of memories of different things and different moments and things like that. And I can remember plenty, but not to the extent that she can. So I’m always kind of amazed by that. I’m not sure if it’s just something she’s really good at or it’s something I just don’t remember as well. Maybe when I’m older I’ll remember more. I hear that, that the older you get, the more you remember of your life, of those moments you’ve kind of forgotten about and they’ll come back to you later in life. Oh. And, uh, compared to my recording from last week, it’s a good 30 degrees cooler today. So that’s a big change.

I’m trying to think back to my earliest memories of how I got into writing and exposed to it. It really started when I got more and more into reading, think I was about 12 or 13 and got introduced to an author by a teacher called . . . .the author was called Willard price. And he wrote these series of kind of kids adventure novels, about two brothers traveling around the world, um, capturing animals for their kind of park they had. And then their dad would sell them to zoos and stuff. They came out in the fifties and sixties. So they’re pretty old books, but I really enjoyed them, reading them as a teenager, because I was almost the same age as the younger brother. And then as I kept reading them, as I got older, I was the same age as the older brother, so I could relate to a lot of it, but it got me really into reading and kind of opened the way for me to read a lot more stuff. Moving on to Stephen King, many other authors, uh, just getting really into reading. And along that way, I think it started me thinking about writing, about how you craft stories and put them together, how these people had done it before.

I can also remember a high school teacher, my English high school teacher exposing me to, uh, I can remember one where it was concepts of writing, things like using metaphors and similes, onomatopoeia, what purple prose is, this whole like kind of list of different tools and ways you can approach writing. And it kind of just opened it up for me, realizing how complex writing could be, how big of a world it is and how there was a lot of room in it to do pretty much whatever you wanted. The English language is vast. There are many, many words for the same thing often. And I think that kind of opened up my mind up to realizing the potential there of crafting and creating.

I really have fog coming off my breath today? It is a chilly morning, but really beautiful. Hot coffee with me too. That’ll help. And off in the distance there is a hot air balloon slowly rising into the sky.

I can remember another moment with my high school teacher, English teacher. With some little creative writing exercise we did. I don’t remember what it was about or if there was a prompt or if it was just make something up or whatever. But all I remember was there was something that I wrote in class and I got really positive feedback from her. And as I recall, it was more so than other students got. Again, I can’t remember what it was about, but just getting that attention. It was almost like it was an opening of a door saying you could do this. If you want, you could start to write and make up stories like this. So I think that was another important starting point for me, gave me the opportunity and the ability, the idea that I could do this if I wanted to do it. And that’s where that started.

I can remember writing on an old electric typewriter we had. Fluttering away at the keyboard. I remember it was pretty cool cause it had actually like an erase button where to put this well, you’d press the button, the erase button, to erase the last letter. And it basically put this little bit of white out on it and then you could retype over it, which I thought was really cool for an electric typewriter. I think I’d used . . . Yeah, I had, I took a, there was a typing class I did at school too, just to learn how to type on old mechanical, heavy typewriters, which was a great skill to learn, to touch type. So using the electric typewriter felt pretty cool. Think we had a computer at that point, but I wasn’t really thinking of it as using it as a writing implement. Yet.

I can remember my first “novel” that I attempted. It was a, what was, it like 40 pages, double-spaced, ended up being all typed out on that electric typewriter, and it was called Home by the Sea I think. And it was like about a haunted house, but I also remember that there was aliens coming and people were being abducted for some reason. And all I can remember was having my character being stuck inside a prison on the alien ship and then talking to someone else about unsolved mysteries. That’s all I can really remember about that, but very convoluted, complex story that I don’t really know what I was trying to do with it, but it was a starting point.

With writing you need to start, you can’t critique or question or think about what you’ve written until you’ve written, and you can say all these things later on, but until you actually start putting those words on the page, whether you write them with a pen, type them or whatever, you can’t really say anything about it.

It’s cold today. Next time I’ll have to bring gloves. Little birds in the trees and the bushes here.

So that’s kind of how I got into writing. From then on it was writing stories and stuff. Um, kind of have a little ideas for stories. And then I started a high school newspaper. The first time did only a couple of issues, but did it all myself, and copying everything out on the photocopier and stuff. And I can remember writing a short story for that called ‘The Lonesome Road” about a guy who picks up a hitchhiker. And then as it turns out the hitchhikers and who she seems to be and has a gun and pulls him over and then steals his car. And I don’t really know what I was trying to achieve with that. Oh, and one other thing I just remembered about, uh, learning for writing in class is another moment was when I got exposed to how you can approach setting a scene, writing a scene and how you always have to keep in mind what each of your five senses are sensing. Cause you got each of those that you can use to describe a scene. You generally don’t want to use all five because that will be purple prose. Overly written ,a little too much description there. I mean, you can always put them in to begin with and then cut them out later if you want. But that was another eye opening moment because I realized with these five different senses you could tell so much, you could paint a complete picture and then further on down the road, it was learning to paint that picture with lesser detail. Not doing too much. I still use that now when I’m writing, I remember I was stuck on a scene or trying to think of about how to approach it. How did you go through, well, when that character, what, what senses are they using to describe and learn the scene, see what it is or hear, what did it is, smell what it is or feel what it is. You’ll see a lot of that probably in Ostium or Jake. We have a lot to do with describing something like exact sight right away or specific sounds. So there were short stories after that and eventually that led to novels and me doing Nanowrimo a couple of times, we’ll talk about that in a different episode.

Another thing I wanted to talk about today was how we’re always writing. A lot of people say If you’re not literally sitting down and writing with a pen or typing, it’s not writing, and that’s not true, because a book isn’t just writing down that book. A book is research. A book is outlining, if you do that. A book is writing some beginning notes. The spark of an idea, A book is coming up with an idea and then taking a walk and thinking about it for an hour. Maybe even recording your thoughts on a voice recorder for a while. So I think that gets misunderstood a lot where people will say, oh, you’re not writing because you’re not literally sitting down doing it. I do it all the time I feel, whenever I have a free moment to think, I do it unavoidably at times when I’m working. So I’m sitting there delivering mail in my truck driving and delivering mail. And I’m also listening to a podcast or audio book at the same time. And still in the back of my mind, I’ll be plotting something or developing something, thinking about what’s going to happen next, thinking about what the character is going do or making up new characters, what stories I want to tell.

And then I’ll usually have to pull over and write some notes about it or something. So I think you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you feel that you’re not getting enough writing done and not literally sitting down and writing it enough. There are many ways to consider yourself writing. Sarah Warner has a great episode on the right now podcast. Uh, I think it’s called the writing season or something like that to do with writing seasons and how you may feel you’re in a season where you’re not in a writing mood. And so you’ll take a break from writing and doing other sorts of stuff, which could be writing notes or developing ideas. But you should check that episode out.

So don’t feel bad If you’re feeling stuck on something that you’re working on and you’re not sitting in that chair and writing it. There are many other ways you can be writing it, whether it be taking a walk and thinking about it, watching a TV show, and then in the back of your mind, you suddenly realize how to solve that plot conundrum you couldn’t figure out.

I don’t have a book recommendation, review type thing for today because I haven’t finished any books recently, mainly because I’ve been marathoning a podcast called We’re Alive. It’s a zombie podcast that came out in 2009. So there’s like four seasons of the first show. And then there’s like two kind of spinoff shows of it. And with the first show there’s chapters and then each chapter is broken up into three parts. And so there’s 48 chapters. I want to say for that whole, all those first four seasons. So it’s a lot I’ve been listening to, but I’m closing in on finishing that fourth season. Now. I know one reason I hadn’t started it is because it was a zombie show and I’ve kind of been burned out on zombie stories for a while now, after Walking Dead and reading tons of books on them and everything. I just needed a break. And I felt like each time I turned to a zombie story, I wasn’t really getting anything new out of it.

So I approached We’re Alive hesitantly. I wasn’t sure if I was gonna stick with it, gave it a few episodes. I tried it before too, and hadn’t gotten into it, but I wanted to give it another shot now. I often do that with podcasts where I’ll try something and if I’m really not in the right frame of mind, I’ll just take a break from it. And then sometimes I’ll try it again later until I get hooked on it. I’ve done that with books too. So with We’re Alive, I feel it gets me really hooked into it are the characters. They’re interesting. They’re diverse, not as diverse as they could be, but I feel that’s also a part of it being 10 years old. Um, as far as I know, as I’m finishing up now, I haven’t met any gay characters or trans characters or anyone like that on there. I’m not sure if that’s something they have planned for the future,, but it definitely feels like a older podcast in that sense that they haven’t been more inclusive, but the characters are really interesting and the way they work together to overcome their hardships is what’s interesting. It doesn’t go down the almost predictable routes that Walking Dead stories did and other zombie stories do. There’s plenty of people wanting to hurt each other to survive and take from each other, but it’s not to the extent that other shows like to do it. And I just liked to see how people overcome these situations when it seems like all hope should be lost. I’ve always been interested in that. I find that in a, when I’m reading history books too, in the past from long, long ago, medieval times or ancient times, kind of how people survived and got by and the same thing for post-apocalyptic stories and future stories of overcoming when it seems to all odds are against you, that we, as humanity, have been able to come so far with little and develop what we’ve got.

The show definitely does some, uh, annoying things for me. I find with, uh, they have a main, the main character is a military guy and there’s a few other military guys and it definitely falls into the stereotypical military guy, or it’s mostly guys talking about guy things and just doing guy stuff that is stereotypical at this point. Not so much reality at all. And I feel like when you’re trying to tell a story like this, sure, if you want to be as accurate as possible to how it is now or was before you want to get that exactly right, right? But the point of a story is to tell something different, to tell something new, to interest you, to not just tell it how it is, especially if it’s boring or predictable or stereotypical. That’s what always kind of bugged me about Game of Thrones – coming by the road here now so it’s getting a little noisier – that’s what was bugging me about Game of Thrones is that you’ve got dragons and a little bit of magic and all this crazy stuff, which is a fantasy element. But then when you asked him why it’s still a patriarchal society and women are still treated so bad, Martin’s claim is well, I’m being historically accurate to the medieval period. Yeah but they weren’t dragons there then were there? So yeah, that kind of annoys me when they kind of pick and choose what historical elements they want to include. But when they want to be actually current and faithful to characters, they won’t do the work. So that’s my main issues with We’re Alive Things like fat jokes about other male characters that are overweight or whatever it is just like, do something new. We don’t need to do that. But overall, I’ve really enjoyed the show, again, just for how it’s brought his characters to these different places. I’ve enjoyed seeing this group of characters that I’ve become pretty close to over the seasons cause it’s a lot of episodes together. And just seeing how they work together, especially the non-military people that have different skill sets and how they work together to develop this society from nothing. It’s an interesting idea that I’ve always been kind of fascinated with. I’ll write about it sometimes. You get a little bit of that with Ostium, I guess, with Jake and Monica being stuck in Ostium and kind of having to start from scratch and develop something with what they got.

So yeah, We’re Alive. It’s a long show. It’s a lot to get through, but once you get started, it really becomes addicting. The sound design is great. It’s pretty minimal too, which I like, like there’s music and sound. And then usually with the finales, it’s all really intense and big, but for the most part, it’s minor sounds that works great for audiodrama, as you’re letting your mind and imagination fill in the details of what these zombies look like, what the situation is, what’s actually going on. It almost makes it a little better, I think, than a visual zombie story like on TV or a movie because there you’re being told in extreme detail what you’re exactly seeing, whereas with a podcast, half of it is your mind creating the shapes and the look of everything. So if you want a nice long show to get started on, I recommend We’re Alive.

All right. I think that about does it for this episode, coming towards the end of, whatever it was, half mile mile walk here, probably about a mile. Thanks for listening. All right. Thanks again. And see you on the next episode.