This is the story of how – and why – I started this blog.
My journey as a writer began at the age of three, when I walked into a donut shop with my parents and proceeded to amaze them – and the rest of the customers – by reading aloud the items on the menu board. By the age of six, I’d acquired a library card and was reading at a fifth grade level. By age eight, I was writing my own stories. And by fifth grade, my fate was sealed thanks to Ms. Zeagman’s class assignment: write a novel. My effort, California Kidnapping, basically a cross between Sweet Valley High and The Nancy Drew Files, impressed her so much she read the first two pages aloud to the class.
From then on, I identified myself as a writer, even though I barely finished anything I started, aside from school assignments. Maybe it was because my writing outside the classroom was poorly influenced what I was reading: silly teen novels in junior high, and in grade nine, Janet Dailey and Danielle Steel - books that contained subject matter to which I couldn’t relate. My writing style evolved yet again when I discovered Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison late in my high school career. That was when I decided that I would be better off as a serious literary writer, even though I couldn’t relate to their subject matter any more than I could Danielle Steel’s.
Nevertheless, I still couldn’t finish a story to save my life.
By the time I started university as an English major, I’d thought I’d finally found my stride as a writer, but continued the same bad habit of only completing writing projects when they were assigned to me. I blamed my inability to complete stories on writer’s block, but that wasn’t quite true: I just didn’t want to admit to myself that I was simply lazy – unwilling to make the hard work effort it took to complete my projects – and arrogant enough to believe that I shouldn’t have to work hard at something I was already good at. I’d also stopped reading as much as I used to, at least, recreationally, which was was also a huge contributor. Any writer worth their salt will advise that as much as a writer needs to write write write to keep their craft fresh, they also need to read read read. (While as an English major, I did a lot of reading, it was required reading. I enjoyed very little of it, therefore it failed to inspire me.) Another reason could have been due to my lack of life experience. Back then, I was kind of sheltered. As much as reading helps with a writer’s craft, so does experiencing life. Though I generally do not agree with the advice “Write what you know”, it does help to know and have been through things that can’t be learned from books alone.
It also helps to learn some new writing techniques, as I did in my senior year of university. My Creative Writing professor introduced my class to “free writing” exercises, where we were to write whatever random thought(s) came to our minds. It was pretty effective, as it gave us no time to question, self-edit, perfect or make sense of what we were writing. This proved to me that there was no such thing as being in the mood for writing or needing inspiration to do so. However, it took me a long time to put this exercise into use for my personal writing. Over the years, I still continued to stop and start a lot of novels and short stories. I even had a brief career as an advertising copywriter, the spectacular demise of which proved to me that just because one can write, one can’t write anything.
Then I started a non-fiction based blog in 2009 called Melicious So Delicious (the name be so ridiculous /Fergie voice). Its oh-so-unique contents were mainly pop-culture related observations and random snippets from my life I deemed interesting and noteworthy enough to publish. Even after all my years of writing - and non-writing – I was amazed at how well written my initial posts were and how much my writing had evolved and matured. I’m not quite sure why or how it had improved so much, but instead of questioning it, I kept at it. For this first time in a long time, I was writing regularly.
And that’s when I began to miss writing fiction.
So, fueled by my newfound confidence, I began a frivolous teen novel Life In The Fast Food Lane. It was about a spoiled, rich teenager whose spending habits are so out of control that her parents cut her off and force her to work a minimum-wage job at a fast-food restaurant. (Again: tres original, but at that point, I’d thought: Screw being a serious writer! Maybe I could be like that Twilight lady and make a killing, even at the expense of artistic integrity.) Throughout the novel, I was determined to write freely as I’d learned in my university Creative Writing course, to not be held back by perfectionism or the other roadblocks that had impeded my progress in the past…or the fact what I was writing was so ridiculous and implausible, I could feel my soul ebbing away with every page I wrote. I ignored my qualms and powered through, but I could only ignore them for so long because felt like I was betraying myself. Sure, it was the longest novel (albeit unfinished) I’d written – at almost ninety-five atrocious pages – but it wasn’t me. I’d wanted to be a writer, wanted to complete a novel, but not like this. While it proved I could write freely, it had also proved that I still had yet to find my voice. So I came back to my senses and abandoned the novel, which, for the first time, I did not regret. Not finishing the project was not a waste this time around, though, because it had the opposite effect that it usually did: it made me more determined to write more often.
And I had just the tool do to do so.
Years ago, I had received a block-shaped stub of a book via a Secret Santa exchange at a staff Christmas party called The Writer’s Block. Its front cover boasted of containing “786 Ideas to Jump-Start Your Imagination.” From what the author, Jason Rekulak, calls Spark Words (“Pillow Talk”; “Short Fuse”; “Infectious”) to Writing Challenges (“Take the reader behind the wheel with the worst driver you’ve ever known”; “Describe your first encounter with an illicit substance”) and tidbits of advice from authors such as Tom Wolfe, Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway and Amy Tan, I should have been equipped with more than enough inspiration to get my pen moving…except at first, it didn’t. If I recall correctly, I flipped through it a few more times, promised myself I would complete the writing challenges…and made an unintentional dust catcher of it. I may have picked it up a few times over the years, but, of course, produced absolutely nothing. By the next time I picked it up, however, I had an idea: to start another blog featuring a short story from each exercise it carried within.
With that, I debuted Toni Atwood on May 19th, 2010. What’s Toni Atwood, you ask? An obvious mash-up of two of my then-favourite authors, Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood, and one of the many names I gave this blog before finally settling on Prose Nylund. Unfortunately, I’d only posted two entries that month, but neither of them were fiction, just introductory post, one which ended with “….and I will not procrastinate!”
Then my blog proceeded remained silent. For three months. But I didn’t hold my peace.
On September 6th, 2010, I started things up again, and Toni Atwood was back in full swing. At first, I was quite diligent about posting stories only generated from the exercises in The Writer’s Block and posting them often. Writing more frequently than I ever had in my life fuelled my creativity to the point where I started to get ideas independent of the ones in The Writer’s Block. I ignored them at first, not wanting to get distracted. I even considered creating another blog for those stories (which I’ve now done – please check it out here) but at the moment I was determined to stay committed to a writing project for once in my life, and changed Toni Atwood to The Writer’s Block Project as a symbol of my undying commitment.
I didn’t stay faithful for long. My desire to write my own fiction overpowered me, so that’s exactly what I did. At first, this was supposed to be an occasional thing, but then I started getting even more of my own ideas for stories to the point where I was overwhelmed with them. At the same time, I’d also re-started my voracious reading habit and thus developed the desire to write book reviews, then decided to make regular segments such as 55 Word Short Stories (an exercise taken from The Writer’s Block) and Stranger Than Fiction. By then, the blog had gotten so far off its original premise that the none stories I was writing of late were based on exercises from the book. But I didn’t want to abandon what the blog had currently become, so I renamed it Prose Nylund to incorporate both my love of writing and reading, which makes sense, since they seems to go hand in hand.
So, much like my writing, this blog has evolved. I’d like to think it’s finally helped me to find my voice. If it hasn’t, I’m getting there. And one day, I will get there. As long as I keep on writing, I will get there.