People ask me all the time (once) how I became a writer. After almost 80 magazine and newspaper articles, a book of children’s bedtime stories and a screenplay, I suppose I do technically qualify to call myself a writer, writer; however it’s difficult for me to consider myself a “real” writer. When I think of “real” contemporary writers, names such as J.K.Rowling, Rick Reilly, Stephanie Meyer, John Grisham, Buzz Bissinger and Tony Hicks come to mind. I don’t kiddingly group my name with that group of illustrious Pulitzer wannabes. I write because I enjoy it, not to pay my bills. Truth-be-told, only the elite of the writing profession make any real money. Most writers write to satisfy their creative side and since everyone has a creative side, I truly believe anyone can be a writer. Also, having a narcissistic ego doesn’t hurt. Whether it’s a journal, diary, poem, lyric, sonnet, story, article or a great American novel, provided you have inspiration there’s a writer inside all of us.
Inspiration can come to a writer in a variety of ways. When people occasionally (once) ask me what inspired me to start writing, I give credit where credit is due — Tony Subia. Tony sat next to me in Mrs. Krause’s third 3rd grade class at Edith Landels Elementary School. One rainy winter day, Mrs. Krause read a hysterical action packed tale, that Tony had scribed, about a band of dress- wearing ninja aliens who visit earth in search of Bubblicious bubble gum to sustain their race. Cut me some slack, it was 1972 and I was 9nine years old. I, along with my academic peers, roared with laughter hearing this brilliantly crafted short story. If memory serves me correctly, Mark Belyan (or me) laughed so hard he wet his pants. Experiencing, firsthand, the type of reaction a brilliantly crafted story, ripe with interesting characters, plot development and subtext, can have on a group of people was intoxicating.
Not surprisingly, I spent the next week crafting an equally brilliant yarn of polka dancing cowboys who rescue a herd of kittens in the Wild West. My story wasn’t received with the same enthusiastic vigor as Tony’s eventual best seller (that boy was truly gifted), but from that point forward I have strived to pen the perfect 1,200-1,500 word masterpiece.
Writing can be therapeutic and cathartic. It’s certainly cheaper than therapy. All of us living a suburban slow death tend to be bingers when it comes to our lives. We are so busy inhaling every aspect of our lives, including work, kids, travel, sports, art, electronics, entertainment, food and wine that we forget to purge. If a person where to channel their passion for a hobby or interest into a series of written words they would be, by definition, a writer.
During high school, I eagerly signed up to be part of the Eagle Gazette staff. In my early attempts to be liked and accepted by everyone, I pitched an idea for a piece called Around the Quad. The monthly column described the various cliques on our military base feeder campus. However, I cleverly twisted the stereotypes of our richly diverse multi-cultural student body. My school chums loved it and I loved the accolades. When I moved on to Foothill Community College, and later Cal State Northridge, my literary focus was based on what I knew best—football. My first attempt at interviewing people was for a column called In the Locker Room, a behind the scenes glimpse of my football teammates and other collegiate athletes competing in a variety of sports. Not surprisingly, I found it to be much more creatively rewarding to humorously pick on my contemporaries insecurities.
Upon starting my career in commercial real estate, writing proved to be a distinctive way for me to get some name recognition in an industry filled with much smarter and more talented brokers than I. Again, my sophomoric, juvenile, self-deprecating humor rang through. While my efforts weren’t Wall Street Journal worthy, it did get me the exposure I was seeking in my market territory. As I grew older and more open-minded, my interests and articles expanded to include history, politics, human rights and religion. I’m only kidding. I kept writing ridiculously silly humor lifestyle and personality profile pieces for a variety of local papers, newsletters and magazines. Once you build-up a body of work, people take you much more seriously when you submit an article for consideration.
The coolest thing about writing was getting my rambling rants published and read. Oddly enough, it still is (see narcissistic ego comment above). A typical article takes on average about ten hours to draft, tweak, proof-read, modify and eventually final. It’s not that hard if you write about what you know, like doing it and believe someone out there might share your thoughts or gain from your insights. If you’ve ever written a family holiday newsletters, maintained a blog or twitter excessively, you’re a writer.
ALIVE magazine is always looking for contributions from local area residents on virtually any subject. We encourage anyone to submit a positive, fact or fiction, based article for consideration to Editor-in-Chief, Eric Johnson. Who knows, you could be the next Paul Hirsch.