Write For Yourself First

blizzard_car Plenty of writers become frustrated when they get that critique about an idea they really believe in.  It maybe something that no one is writing about, or perhaps it’s a topic that is relevant.  Don’t give up because the worst thing that you can do as a writer is write for someone.  Write what is real to you and write what you believe will work even if others are not so sure.  Remember Hollywood and Broadway or off Broadway is filled with stories about works that sat on the scrap heap before it hit someone’s desk and they said, “Hey wait a minute, this is different.  This could work.”  The trick is writing for yourself first.   If you have an idea and someone rips it or someone just doesn’t think it will sell, keep plugging away at it.  Remember why you thought the idea was good in the first place and most of all remember why you’re writing, because you’re passionate and you have a voice with an important story to tell.
I learned the lesson in High School.  One of my first creative writing teachers was a man named Bob Fisher.  He was a legend among the halls of Kennett High School.  My freshman year he was  so respected, they dedicated the Year Book to him.  Now that might not seem that odd, but the man  was on sabbatical.  Bob wasn’t just an excellent English teacher, but he was also a very good ski coach.  He was a laid back man with style and class.  He was diminutive in stature with short cropped salt and pepper hair.  He wore tweed coats and sweaters.  He seemed more like a college professor, which I guess he could have been.  He wasn’t the type of man that you would have expected to have been the father of an Olympic skier, but he was.  He was very shy and very humble, but we all loved taking a course from Bob.  He had a fine wit and loved to read your stories in his creative writing class.
Now, when I took Bob’s course, I had written a few small scripts of my own, but I had no confidence and I wasn’t really sure whether I enjoyed writing or not.  Bob changed all that. You see Bob, didn’t assign you a topic.  His only assignments, write three stories a day and write every day in a journal.  The object of the journal was to kick start your imagination.  He didn’t care what you wrote about, or whether you were profane, all he cared about was the work was honest.  The goal of every writer in the class was to catch Bob’s eye, so he would read your piece in class.
I wrote many stories in his class, and would always get a compliment from Bob, but I came away frustrated the stories never seemed good enough for him to read in class.  I began to question my own writing.  While others were writing stories about their latest weekend  or what went wrong on their latest date, I couldn’t find anything that caught Bob’s attention.  Then it hit me, I wasn’t writing because I liked writing, I to please him, which was not honest writing.  I began to stop worrying about it.  Maybe the few compliments I was getting were enough.
During Christmas vacation it happened.  A story out of my own life and it was something I had to write about, because it was funny.  I wrote about visiting my best friend.  I saw Dave at our camp in the summers and on holidays. It was the first time, Dad entrusted me with the car.  I was not only elated to have my independence, but the idea of driving, put me in an optimistic mood.  The trip out was fine, but  I arrived way too early.  No one was at Dave’s house yet. I decided to kill some time and took a ride past our summer home to the hiker parking lot.  As I was backing out, I foolishly gunned it in reverse and was stuck in a huge snowbank.  The next hour was a comedy of errors, as I swore up a blue streak and tried everything to get out.  I rocked the car back and forth.  I found a shovel in the back and tried to dig the tires out.  No luck.  Finally, I found a box in the trunk of the car and some sand.  I ripped up the cardboard and put it under the tires along with the sand and I finally got the car out.
When I arrived at Dave’s I told him what had happened.  His family thought it was hysterical.  Suddenly I had a good story to write about for Bob Fisher’s English class.
I never told my Dad, I feared I’d he would never let me drive the car again.  That Sunday night I wrote the story and a week later Bob Fisher read my story.  As I listened to it, I wasn’t aware that everyone was laughing, I was aware of how fresh and how it sounded like something out of a Woody Allen script.  Somehow without realizing it, I had finally found my voice.  It was humor out of situations.  Two weeks later, I wrote something entirely different.  Something I never imagined would be read in class.  It was about my usual boring egg salad sandwich I made myself every Saturday.  It read like a Dave Barry article.  Mr. Fisher liked that too and read it.
Years later my first full length play was being produced and directed in New Hampshire.  I was asked to do an interview for a local paper.  I remember being asked who had inspired me to write.  Without hesitation Bob Fisher came to my head and I mentioned him.  That week I had a reunion with Bob Fisher.  He read the article and wanted to see the play written by this kid that he had inspired.  We had a good reunion and I thanked him for his wisdom and for reading my stories in class.  Now Bob may have inspired me to write by my first full length play was written about something I was passionate about and I wrote it for myself.


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