I’m an economist by training and I’ve been working in my profession for nearly 40 years.
So what am I doing writing amusing, entertaining short stories intended for a mass market?
That’s a good question. It’s one I grapple with all the time.
The answer, it turns out, is simple.
It’s because I enjoy it.
I’ve been writing on the economy for what seems forever.
There’s a certain level of satisfaction that comes from being recognized in one’s chosen profession.
The acknowledgements I receive for my economic articles – which, by the way, do pay the bills – are nice, but they provide only a limited amount of satisfaction. They pale next to the excitement I feel when I hear that someone has read and enjoyed one of my short stories.
This is why people become entertainers in the first place, to interact with an audience.
Writers are storytellers. We’re a specialized branch of entertainment.
I love my stories. They’re a part of me. My characters – all of them – are bits and pieces re-assembled from my own experiences.
My stories are my own invention. They’re not cool rational pieces of logic.
They’re written with emotion. They’re meant to capture humor and sadness. They play with words to create interesting effects.
They’re what I want to leave behind so my children and grandchildren will get to know the “old man” better.
The reason I’ve been in the process of transitioning from what are essentially academic pieces to works that are more sublime is because new technology has made it possible.
When I was a child, I used to imagine becoming a writer. As the years passed, it seemed such a daunting process. Spend years composing a book. Find an agent. Hope for a publisher. Maybe it would all lead to naught.
How many manuscripts never see the light of day?
That doesn’t have to be the case anymore.
Five years ago, my employer asked me to start writing an economics blog.
I knew that for such an enterprise to be successful, I’d have to be prolific. That alone caused me to flex my writing muscles.
Then I realized that what I was composing was reaching only a limited audience. I craved a wider market, so I started writing amusing pieces to post on an intermittent basis.
Soon I found I had an inventory. I set up my own personal web site as a docking station, not realizing that what I was doing was establishing a platform.
Participating on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube came next.
Also around five years ago, I discovered a phenomenon on Twitter known as #fridayflash.
Anyone is welcome to post their stories of 1,000 words or less at www.fridayflash.org and appear on the latest weekly list and in the archives.
It’s been a wonderful opportunity.
At first, what was particularly beneficial for me was the imposed discipline. I set a goal of writing a Friday Flash story every week. That meant conceiving an idea, writing a draft and polishing it within seven days.
A significant side benefit has been interaction with a community of other writers who in many cases are also attempting to redefine themselves.
Over the years, I’ve submitted 60 stories in all to Friday Flash. Many of them have subsequently formed the basis of stand-alone books that have been self-published.
My writing has altered over the years, in part shaped by the subject matter I’ve seen other Friday Flash writers tackle.
In my economic articles, there is a certain pro forma that has burrowed its way into my work. There are word and phrase repetitions that have become engrained in my style.
My personal writing offered the chance to break away from this straight jacket. Let me phrase it in any easy to understand manner. I’ve been able to apply dynamite to my writing constipation.
My style needed unbinding. I’ve had to learn a new looser and more free-form way to write.
Other aspiring writers are always seeking advice on what they should do to hone their abilities.
My first answer is to write, write and then write some more. There’s no substitute for practice.
Approach everything with the intent to find your own unique way of expressing yourself.
This goes for 140 character entries on Twitter as much as for full-form novels. As a writer, you’re always on display.
Or invert your viewpoint. From a marketing perspective, embrace every opportunity to display your skills.
The ultimate goal is to write with confidence. Proper grammar and technical ability are important, but the extra fillip that puts a writer over the top with readers is the flare.
That comes best when you learn to be honest and open.
~ Alex Carrick
This week we welcome Alex Carrick to the FFDO team. He joins our rotation of community correspondents to help bring a variety of viewpoints and voices to bear on diverse topics concerning reading, writing, editing, and publishing in today’s fast changing world.