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Did I Mention I Like Coffee?

February 18, 2011

Whenever I have to do an autobiographical piece, be it a fifty word bio, a “let’s-go-around-the-room-and-tell-each-other-some-secret-no-one-knows-about-us” ice breaker in a stuffy business meeting or a longer, more thorough, guided tour into the inner sanctum of my mind, I always feel like I’ve never written an interesting word in my life.

My name is Rob. I live with my wife, two kids, a dog, two cats, a varying number of tropical fish and a large number of houseplants. I don’t eat anything that has a face or a mother. I am watching helplessly as the calendar screams in on one of those big, scary “milestone birthdays” that ends in a zero. And I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

Blah, blah, blah.

Truth be told, I have never been sure what to say about myself.  I usually end up blabbering about my favorite types of footwear, my opinion on the most-efficient shape of ice cubes or the best, vegetarian-friendly pick-up lines I’ve heard.  But nobody really wants to know about those things, especially since this is supposed to be about writing.

I write all day long.  I don’t write what I want to write, but I guess I am, technically, writing.  I write computer software for a living. Considering how much I hate computers, this fact is either ironic or sad, depending on how you look at it.  But it pays the bills, so I keep showing up. During evenings and weekends, when I’m not chasing my kids around, tending to my vegetable garden or—occasionally—sleeping, I write poetry, music, short stories, novels, haiku, sonnets, stage plays and other things that largely defy classification.  I have found no real preference for one form over another – I choose the form that feels right for the story at hand, sometimes switching between styles if I get stuck.  As an example, the most recent play I completed, The Legend of Sweetbriar Cemetery, was giving me fits until I switched up and wrote the story in narrative form (with little or no dialogue at all), after which I was able to successfully write the script (which is, of course, nothing but dialogue).

My writing preferences mirror my reading preferences: science fiction, fantasy and comedy. Of course, two of my three publication credits are general fiction (The Red Book and The Yang Book) with the third being a somewhat soft science fiction piece (Nothing But Flowers), so even in writing, The Universe has shown me that I’m not really in control.  I often wonder if we, as writers, are ever really in control of our craft.

Writing has always come naturally to me; it was just what I did – what I had to do – in order to keep a grip on my tenuous hold on my world.  I don’t know why I started writing or when I started to consider myself to be “someone who writes” but thinking back, the hours spent writing and the hours spent performing with the marching band certainly kept me out of all sorts of trouble.  I am so grateful to have had both the trumpet and the pen as creative outlets. Playing music allowed me to ignore the world around me; it transported me to another plane of existence.  But writing was a more complete escape for me.  Through writing I could manipulate the universe, make it bend to my every whim.  Writing made it possible for me to visit the hyper-intelligent dogs of Alpha Centauri in the short time between the end of the school day and dinner. It made it possible for me to be in a world free from disease, divorce, bullies and fear.  It made it possible for a world to exist in which girls liked me.

You’ll note that while I say writing has come naturally, I didn’t say it has come easily.  I have had frequent bouts of writer’s block, especially since my college days.  Where I used to write daily, I can go weeks or even months without even scrawling a single word on the page now. When I do scratch something out, I get anxious, scared even, the first time I show a new piece to anyone who is not in my own head.  I keep hoping it will get easier, but so far it has not. Selfishly, what I hope to get from participating more visibly on Write Anything is more experience sharing my writing as well as the impetus to get past the writer’s block and, more importantly, the excuses that have kept me from writing as much as I want.

What I hope to bring to Write Anything is my experience.  I’ll very likely talk about script writing at some point because this has been an under-served style here in the past.  I’ll very likely write about coffee at some point because, well, that’s what I do.  I hope to be able to provide advice or insight to other aspiring authors, perhaps helping them to avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way.  If I can, in some small way, help solidify the love of writing in someone, then I will feel like I’ve given back a small tribute to what writing has given to me.

I’ll end this post as I began it, with some final bits of information about me:

I have no favorite color. My favorite musicians include REO Speedwagon, Chicago, Paramore, Billy Joel, Miles Davis and Fats Waller.  My favorite authors include Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, JK Rowling and Dr. Seuss.  I have never been drunk, though not for lack of trying (my wife says: “Drinking with Rob is like drinking alone”). I get irritated when planes don’t have a thirteenth row or buildings don’t have a thirteenth floor (skipping from 12 to 14 instead).  And my favorite flavor is plain.

  1. February 18, 2011 6:21 am

    REO Speedwagon FTW!

    It’s a pleasure to find out a little more about you, RD!

  2. February 18, 2011 8:54 am

    Despite your disclaimers, you are fascinating. I won’t hold it against you that you ‘hate’ my lovely computers you’re still young.

  3. February 18, 2011 10:44 am

    In my opinion the important question is not what you want to be when you grow up, but whether you really want to grow up. I’m still considering.

  4. February 18, 2011 12:55 pm

    @Icy: Yes, REO Speedwagon FTW indeed! I’ve been a fan since I was old enough to pay attention to the radio. I think my favorite album of REO’s may be “You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish”… but I really don’t know if I can actually pick a favorite because I like them all. I’ve turned my kids on to them, too — they’ve been to 8 or 9 concerts already!

    @Jacqui: Aww, thanks! I’m not sure how fascinating I am but I at least try to be entertaining. As for hating computers… well, ‘hate’ is a four letter word, so I do tend to avoid it, but I really don’t like these things. That said, I get the shakes if I’m away from the computer for very long, so even my dislike for them isn’t enough to keep me away from them! Now, about the “you’re still young…” You saw the bit about “milestone birthdays” right?

    @Paul: Oh, I had to grow up when I was a wee lad. Then when I had kids I kind of started living the childhood thing again. Now that my daughter is a teenager, I’m going through the angsty bits again. In a way, I do want to grow up and get out of this phase (again). But mostly I just want a coffee, some fresh veggies and a new story idea (or thirteen).

  5. Jason Coggins permalink
    February 19, 2011 8:49 pm

    As a fellow non-eater of things with faces and mothers (who just so happens to be single again) I would be quite interested in hearing some of those vegetarian friendly pick-up lines. I’m also a fan of your stories over in the Chinese Whisperings universe so it’ll be good to read more about how you consistently craft stories of such a high caliber (hoping that some of the fairy dust will rub off!)

  6. February 21, 2011 11:06 am

    Well, Jason, depending on where you are, you might have some success with things like “What’s your favorite thing to do with agave nectar?” Or if you run in more academic circles, you could go with “So, where do you get your B-12?”

    Your mileage may vary, of course.

  7. February 22, 2011 8:50 am

    Hi Rob-you had me at coffee. I can really relate to writing coming naturally but not easily. I struggle with that too.

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