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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Stretching as a writer

Writing stars, long-term experience is a double-edged sword. On one hand, clients, readers, and employers like it when you have in-depth expertise and years of experience. On the other hand, you can get stuck in a rut.

I've been writing and editing for a LONG time, and yes, over the years, I've gotten stuck in a couple of ruts. This usually happens when I'm in employee mode and have to produce corporate-speak on schedule. During these periods, my writing gets the taste and feel of stale, moldy bread. 

I was a business development writer in my former job, and sure enough, it didn't take long after my start date for my writing to become as gray as my cubicle. 

So for inspiration, I sometimes go to the most unlikely places — MediaTakeout.com for example. The writers at this African American celebrity site use exclamation points and the caps lock button with abandon. They make up words and come up with some of the most brilliantly funny metaphors and similes. They have their bad moments, but they don't seem to care. They are totally uninhibited (a clue to making your writing more fun to read). The reader comments can be just as insane.

Now that I've been laid off (thank you very much), I've thought about this issue of stretching as a writer. I've always wanted to write fiction, but didn't have the confidence to try. I mean, who can be as good as Toni Morrison, or MediaTakeout for that matter?

The Celebrity Editor takes the plunge

A few months ago, Huff/Post 50 (The Huffington Post department for readers 50+) invited writers to submit short stories. I wrote one about a year ago as an exercise, but filed it away with the idea that it would never be seen by human eyes, ever. 

In an irrational act of courage, I gave it a shot. It was now or never. I dusted off my story, closed my eyes, and emailed it. 

To my surprise, and terror, Huff/Post 50 accepted my story, and yesterday, "The Mattress," was published. I've written a lot of fiction that I ultimately filed or deleted, but this is the first time my fiction has seen the light of day. Whew! 

Now for a dose of reality. When I read "The Mattress" in print, I cringed. There were a million things I should have fixed, but hey, it is what it is. 

Writing stars, I would really love it if you would read "The Mattress," post a comment, and let me know what you think. In your opinion, how could my story have been improved?

Here's something else I'm doing to stretch myself. Over the summer I'm taking a comedy writing class at Second City, the famed training camp that spawned such alumni as Stephen Colbert, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, and so many more. I'll definitely blog about it for you.

I fear I'll be the least funny writer in the class, but hey, that's what stretching is all about!

Donna Marie

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