Why I Became a Writer

My old man is pretty much the reason I became a writer. He was full of wild and unbelievable stories and he's the one that got me writing in the first place, though probably not in the way that you'd expect.

 Subtle nod to the most famous post apocalyptic father/son duo.

Subtle nod to the most famous post apocalyptic father/son duo.

My old man was a stevedore, he loaded and unloaded cargo ships. He traveled all around the world, to some of the most remote locations, and unloaded ships there. Half the time he was going to places that didn't even exist yet, he was there to unload the building supplies for mining or logging camps that were destined for the middle of some island jungle. You can't go to these sorts of places and not come back with some crazy stories.

Pirates, rabid Razorbacks, minefields, fossils of prehistoric birds, tidal waves, guys blowing their legs off while fishing with grenades and WW2 era Japanese swords lodged in trees in Papua New Guinea. He'd seen it all, and afterwards he'd come home and tell me all about it.

 That's actually a fairly accurate depiction of the kind of ships he worked on...

That's actually a fairly accurate depiction of the kind of ships he worked on...

The thing with my dad though, was that despite having all these amazing stories to tell me, he rarely read or wrote because he was dyslexic. It's why he continued to be a stevedore well into his sixties, it was a hands on job that allowed him to travel and didn't require him to do much of either. The problem was though, when you've been in a job for that long you tend to get promoted to management, and managers usually have to write emails and reports and all those boring, desk jockey things. 

 That's actually a fairly accurate depiction of my old man... weirdly enough.

That's actually a fairly accurate depiction of my old man... weirdly enough.

Which is where his nerdy, nine year old kid comes into the picture. 

I'd be on the computer, playing Dark Earth or Fallout, and this gigantic hand would suddenly drop down onto my shoulder. My dad was pretty stealthy for a big guy, but that's a story for another day. I'd close the game with a sigh, I knew what I needed to do.

When that happened, I was going to be spending the next fifteen minutes to an hour transcribing and editing an email or some report. He'd sit behind me and spout random things about subjects that we're way beyond my comprehension, or he'd be having a go at some employee that wasn't pulling their weight. My job was to write it all out, and edit it to make sure that it sounded right. After he was finished, he'd always end with, "now, read it back to me. Then send it."

 Practice makes perfect.

Practice makes perfect.

The cool thing about this little ritual we had going was that I've got a pretty good typing speed, I know how to spell and, although I don't do it the way you're meant too, I can touch type. I've got a pretty good idea of sentence structure and formatting, and I've got an idea of when things don't sound right - especially in dialogue. Beyond this, I'm also not bad at remembering strings of words that're shouted at me, and I'm usually able to regurgitate them with a fairly high level of accuracy. 

The downside to this training, besides the countless hours of gaming that I missed out on, is that this was all on the job learning. I know what I'm doing, I just don't know why I'm doing it or even what "it" is called. I know where all the commas and full stops go, but throw a semicolon at me and you might as well be speaking Pitjantjatjara. I can still only barely tell you the difference between a noun and a verb, and don't even get me started on adverbs and adjectives. Please, don't get me started, I wouldn't even know where to start from.

They... change things? I dunno.

Let me just reiterate; I have a Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing, with minors in English and History. I got through all of university and I still didn't learn this stuff, either because they figured it was so basic that we should already know it or because they just don't teach it anymore. It's one of the reasons I'm so glad that I'm doing this TESOL course; I'll have to know grammar if I'm ever going to teach it. Learning how to teach kids how to read/write/speak English is as much for my own benefit as it is theirs. 

I get that this probably isn't the best thing to be divulging to the world this early in the game, but I've always been a fan of a unique origin story. My old man passed away a few years ago now, and although we didn't always see eye to eye, he's the one that go me interested in storytelling and, whether he intended to or not, he's the one that trained me how to write. He showed me how to have some crazy adventures of my own too, but again - another day.

Would it have been that hard for me to pick up a grammar guide and learn how to do this? Probably not, but then I am notoriously lazy and I got a weird kick out of being the lone sorcerer in a class full of classically trained wizards. (sorry... D&D joke there, props if you get it)

I am making amends for all that though, as I am finally studying up on something that I should have mastered a long time ago. It'll take me a while to get used to all the technical terms for the in's and out's of English, it is a bastard language after all, but I'll get there.... because I would really like to get out of here, and teaching kids overseas is my best chance of doing just that.

 Let's just hope it's not like this...

Let's just hope it's not like this...