By David Joel Miller.
The journey from wanting to write to published author almost didn’t happen.
While having lunch the other day with a couple of colleagues they had a lot of questions for me about how I got from where I started to where I am today. Our conversation got me to thinking about all the experiences I’ve had learning, first to blog, then to write some books, and finally to see two of those books published. It’s been a long journey and one that almost didn’t happen.
I can’t say I have all the answers at this point, but I have learned a lot along my journey. One thing I discovered is that one of the best ways to consolidate knowledge, so you don’t forget it, is to try to teach it to someone else. Starting with this post I wanted to share with whoever might be interested in some of the things that I have learned along this journey that almost never happened.
Doing something I didn’t think was possible.
For a good part of my life, I didn’t think that writing something worth reading was a possibility for me. As an elementary school child, I wrote a poem that ended up in the school newspaper, and for many years afterward I thought about writing, but given all my struggles in English class, I didn’t think it was a possibility, not for me anyway.
The consensus back then was that to be a successful writer you need to have great handwriting, be skilled at typing, and especially you need to be a fabulous speller. Writing something that others would read necessitated you to be perfect with your grammar, and able to insert punctuation with perfect precision. While I was passable at public speaking when it came to written language, I had none of those required skills.
Being left-handed I learned to write less than legibly. Several people suggested that I should have become a doctor. While I couldn’t spell standard English or any other language for that matter, I was highly creative. Within a single paragraph, I could find at least 3 to 4 different ways to spell the same word.
For the record being creative with your spelling is not something I invented. If you read some of the books written in colonial times, you will find that back then, spelling was far from fixed. King James is reported to have said: “I never trust anyone who only knows one way to spell a word.” While I can’t be sure that quote is accurate, up until about 1999 I followed the practice of writing as little as possible and then with total disregard for spelling and punctuation.
And then the world started changing.
I’ll spare you the detailed stories of walking to and from school, uphill, both ways, in the snow, though before 1960 I lived in the Midwest and I did walk to school in the snow. The world in this millennium is for me, like moving to a foreign country and having to learn a new culture. To give you some perspective, as a child I visited my grandparents. There was no running water. There was an outhouse out by the back fence, and the kitchen sink was built over the well. Each time you use the pump you had to save a glass of water to prime the pump for the next use. The whole town had one phone line and if too many people picked up when the phone rang, you couldn’t here anymore.
Then came the second millennium.
For most of America’s history, almost everyone worked in agriculture. Back then something like 5 percent of the US population lived in big cities. By the 1900’s people had started working in factories and retail stores. Only one of my four grandparents graduated from high school. Back then you didn’t need a diploma to get a job.
In the year 2000, more than half the country lived in big cities and to get even a low-paid job was likely to require more than a high school diploma. The pace of change began accelerating. By the year 2020, it’s probable that almost all jobs will require at least 2-year college degree.
The other massive change that occurred since 2000 is the rapid acceleration in technology. Like an immigrant to the new digital technology world who was learning a new language, I had to learn how to log on to the computer. Today I spend the bulk of my day online navigating programs, and I take journeys everywhere across the world-wide-web.
Some 21st-century writing and technology experiences.
About 2000 I learned to use the computer at work. Shortly after that, we got our first home computer connected to the Internet by a dial-up modem. Remember those days? In the 20 years since I’ve had to replace computers and programs multiple times as programs and operating systems became outmoded. Today I have a desktop computer which I use for most of my writing and a laptop computer which can connect via Wi-Fi when I’m away from my home office.
I was shocked when some of my coworkers began to openly talk about using a “cell phone.” My understanding used to be that the only time people use a cell phone was when they made a call from the drunk tank using the pay phone on the cell wall.
In 2005 I attended a conference (The Evolution of Psychotherapy) and encountered a shocking face-to-face encounter with the new technological universe. One of the speakers told us that if you wanted to work in some parts of the counseling field you needed to have a portable “cell phone.” I quickly purchased a flip phone.
I encounter a phone that is smarter than I am.
When my old flip phone gave up the ghost, I make the upgrade to a smartphone. Unfortunately, way too many people who know me “have my number.” They started sending me startling messages using a thing called “text messaging.” I am especially thankful to one of my interns who taught me how to open a text message and how to reply to it.
So, there you have some of the story about how I began the journey from being someone with a learning disability of written expression, unable to write a sentence containing correctly spelled words which were correctly punctuated, to someone who writes a reasonably well-read blog and has written and published two books.
It’s a glorious new age for writing and publishing.
In the past, if you wanted to be a writer you struggled for possibly decades. Most writers had day jobs and filled the evenings and weekends was struggling to learn their craft. In the early days, if you wanted something published, you had to come up with the cash to get it printed and then try to sell it yourself. There are still a few companies who will print your book for you if your sole goal is to be able to hold your book in your hand. But don’t expect much in the way of book sales.
The other approach to getting something you wrote published was to send it off to the “gatekeepers.” The used to be a lot of magazines that would pay small amounts for short stories. Then the publishing of books became concentrated in New York and a few other major cities. Authors had to work for years writing and submitting and hoping someone would like what they’ve done well enough to agree to publish their book.
Technology keeps moving forward.
The invention of the automobile resulted in the demise of the whole horse and buggy industry. Today’s technology, computers, word processing programs, spelling and grammar checkers along with e-books and on-demand printing has entirely altered the way the written word is produced and distributed.
For centuries, people who would learn to read and write have said they wanted to write a book. I know of several of my friends and relatives who always wanted to write a book. Most of them never did. A great many people had a manuscript tucked away in a drawer somewhere that was discarded when they died.
Today technology makes it possible for almost anyone to write something. Whether you can spell or punctuate you can still create an understandable sentence, paragraph, chapter, and book. Even if you can’t type, you can dictate. Personally, because of carpal tunnel syndrome, I’ve had to switch from typing to dictating. For better or worse the new technologies have made writing and publishing accessible to anyone willing to put in the effort, even if you’re not a digital native but an old dinosaur like me.
Possible, however, does not mean easy. In upcoming posts, I want to share some of the experiences I’ve had to reach this point in my writing experiences and some of the lessons I have learned along the way. Hope you’ll join me again for other blog posts on the topics of writing and publishing.
You’ll find more posts on this topic under – Writing.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.