Christopher Slabaugh Elizabeth Whitacre ENG285 10/16/13

Christopher Slabaugh
Elizabeth Whitacre
Who Could be more Interested than Me?
It all started with a simple lack of reading material. I was a bored kid growing up. Way
too much time and a library of books in the house led to voracious reading any and all the time.
Simply one day I didn’t have a book to read. Nothing was really jumping out at me that I
wanted to pick up and thumb through. That’s when it dawned on me that I might as well write
my own book. I mean, who could write a book I’d be more interested in than me?
I was about fourteen, had a general knowledge of English, at least I wasn’t doing too bad
in the subject for school. Unfortunately, I hadn’t the foggiest notion how exactly one goes about
the process of writing. I realized that I didn’t know the first thing about writing despite getting
decent grades churning out remarkably typeset papers for school.
That’s where my obsessive nature came into play. I think it runs on one side of the
family. Once I get something in my head that I’m going to do, I become obsessive about doing
it. Every minute became a quest to try and figure out this whole writing thing.
Old favorite books were picked up again to see how that author had did it. I began to see
the difference in the writing styles of the bestselling authors that filled my house. Plot devices,
writing styles, so many things were understood without much of a proper process of learning. I
was making things up as I went along and doing pretty well at it.
More than that, I started describing the world around me. In my head, all the time, I
would be narrating the actions, the locations, and the ubiquitous stuff of everyday life. Like a
bad radio cop drama, I would think through the words to describe the things I did. Often, I
would get caught up because, even ten minutes later, I would be off someplace else trying to
reword the best way to describe how I had come down that flight of stairs because I couldn’t get
a phrase that would stick enough.
I started to read what other authors had said about writing. I know so many quotes and
sentiments about writing that shaped my understanding of it and even the way I wrote.
“Fanfiction is a waste of good talent…” all thoughts of writing fanfiction were suddenly thrown
out the proverbial window. “An exclamation point is an author’s way of laughing at himself…”
that was it, no more exclamation points. “…I wrote it again, and then wrote it again. Then when
I thought there was nothing more that I could possibly improve on, I threw the whole thing out
and started over.” Just like that, I began rewriting everything. Reading those little bits of
wisdom once were able to shape the very way that I wrote. That was the power behind a good
writer. That’s what I wanted to be.
My dad traveled a lot so, naturally, he had a library stuffed with the material frequently
found on airport bookshelves. The books were all mass produced works extremely common to
everywhere with typically basic writing styles meant to have a broad appeal. While I know
many people disparage them, I looked at them and couldn’t help but think, “If they’re such tripe,
why are those authors actually making real money?” The common fiction with general appeal
was what I was after. My goal was to be like Tom Clancy, work a boring job and never stop
writing and maybe, just maybe after so much work put in on the kitchen table at night after work,
a publisher would pick up a manuscript and print it.
You see, I didn’t really think there was much to be gained from getting a formal
education in writing. I’m definitely an excruciatingly practical person and the notion of paying
for a formal education in a field where I would never be guaranteed a biweekly paycheck carried
less appeal to me than working on an assembly line. I figured there would be little difference
between whether I would write on my own or attempt to write for a living. My odds were lower
for writing on my own, but my likelihood of living comfortably was much higher.
By the time I was finishing high school, I had developed a full system. Thousands of
pages written just for the hell of it were under my belt. I had gravitated toward writing stories
that would work on a skill that I knew was lacking. Each story was homework where I kept on
trying new things and trying to broaden my skill. I had my process where I’d fully evaluate the
pieces I intended to write and my standards were high enough few made the cut to rough
working draft, which happened to be my final stage.
So many stories got discarded into a folder labeled “Freewriting.FailedWriting” where
many would never see the light of day again except for the bare few that I would exhume for the
purpose of extracting the ideas I hadn’t executed well enough.
Maybe my analytical nature, maybe my obsessive streak, maybe just the boredom I
started with, and maybe just the appeal writing had built through the feeling of creating
something. Like George Orwell said, “…I knew I should grow up to be a writer.”