Becoming Writer: Formal Education as an Author Versus None as a Writer

Yesterday, a fellow blogger asked me a good question about formal education as a writer versus no formal education as a writer. A lot of writers struggle with this. Some see education as the end all, be all that will make them a best-seller. Others who don’t have this education sometimes feel inadequate.

It took me four and a half years to get my bachelor’s degree which is in the field of Professional Technical Writing. Unlike beginning authors without training, I have a pretty good grasp on grammar and the technical parts of writing. I learned much of this in high school though and a small amount of it in college.

You don’t have to go to school to be a writer. Writing is a craft. Reading and writing will undoubtedly make you better. You just have to read books on the craft of writing and study hard on your own. Don’t just throw something together and think it will sell. You must edit and proofread meticulously.

Being in the Creative Writing MFA has put me in contact with some great influential writers. You can build similar contacts by going to writing workshops or joining groups.

Publishing houses and literary agents tend to take formally educated writers more seriously. If you can get some of your work published in magazines or anthologies, this will open doors for you.

You don’t need a degree or two like I have. You just need to write good stories, and send them to publishing houses and agents who will read them. If your work is good, the book deals will come.

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This Year So Far as a Writer

This year has been one of the most successful and stressful for me as a writer. I am in my third semester of a Creative Writing MFA program that requires a bunch of reading and writing, I have done a poetry reading, gotten into a car accident, written a novella, published a novella, worked on several novels and short stories AND had a new baby this year named Zuri.  She’s lovely.

In February, I did my first poetry reading, compliments of The Poetry Foundation here in Chicago. Because I don’t view myself as a poet, the whole ordeal was stressful, but it was fun and it paid handsomely. As I stared out at the crowd from the podium, I stuttered a bit while wondering what I was really doing there. The reading was a complete success.

The MFA program has been kicking my ass daily. I have had to read August Wilson’s Century Cycle. Although the plays are insightful, having to answer questions about them has been overwhelming. I still have a 12-page paper due and I have to take two more tests before the semester ends. So far, I have gotten A’s on all the assignments.

My collection of literary fiction short stories “The Book of All Things Beautiful” is available for download on Amazon. Click the link or search my name, Jermaine Reed, and look for the book that has someone sitting with a red umbrella. You can’t miss it. The stories are wonderful.

My new Science Fiction novella “Operation Soul Cast” will be available for download or for print May 1, 2018. It is a wonderful story about minds being cast into different bodies and bloody outcomes.

My car accident has been a headache. I have two Nissan cars, and for some reason the insurance company has gotten them mixed up. It really boils my blood. It’s like they shoot me as much paperwork as they can to deter me from continuing my claim. But they won’t deter me.

As an up and coming writer, things have been rough. I don’t find time for writing. I MAKE time for writing. Life will give you every excuse to not write. You have to bypass the will to make excuses and write. Put words on the page.

Today, I hosted my fraternity Phi Rho Eta, Incorporated’s 9th Annual Mock Trial Competition. As the event’s coordinator, a position that consisted of finding participants, helping to raise money, finding a venue and all sorts of things, I nearly broke down. The anxiety almost had me. The event went well though. I would not have had it any other way.

I hope this piece helps someone find the courage to write their next line, next story, next novel.

#indieauthor #writer #selfpublish

A Newborn

Nearly three months ago, my third beautiful daughter was born. Her eyes are a color I have never seen before and I cannot name. I was hoping for my first son, but I’m blessed either way. The question is, where do I go from here?

How to Write a Book

Recently, I have been working my ass off, writing, finishing my MFA and going to school while also helping to raise my three daughters. The question I am constantly asked is, “How do you find time to write?”

I don’t find time. I make time. That’s the difference. Life will give you a million reasons why you have to put off writing. You’re busy. You’re eating. You’re working. Something came up. The list is endless. At some point, you have to find the resolve to say, fuck this. Today, at this time, for the rest of this month or year, I will write.

The one thing that all successful writers have in common is they write. They put words on thr page. Whenever someone declares, “This is the book that will make me rich,” they’re most likely wrong. And to the classics, the best sellers, we have all read them and thought, “Why this book? It is nothing spectacular.”

Most up and coming writers are too critical of themselves. They write and think, “This is trash.” Newsflash, all first drafts are trash. However, they are the foundation on which you build. In this way, think of your manuscript as the bones of a house. Editing and proofreading are the paint and construction that makes the house beautiful. It is not done with one draft. It’s done with many.

Anyways, my new book “The Book of All Things Beautiful” is temporarily available for free download on Amazon. Hurry. The offer expires soon. You can search my name, Jermaine Reed, on Amazon and the book will come up. Or follow the link below.

Thank you.

The Pressures of Being a Struggling Writer

Your manuscript should be at least 80,000 words. 

Hearing that may be overwhelming. It’s similar to that part in I, Robot where Sunny tells Will Smith’s character the vast amount of stairs they have to climb. You may think, how the hell do I come up with 80,000 words? Then, you may think, I’ll just write 60,000 and someone will publish it. You should not think that way. 

Writing a novel is a great task. It can be overwhelming. But deviating from the standards of word-count will only tarnish your efforts and limit the number of editors or agents who will take your work seriously. 

Knowing how much work is involved, you may wonder, What of no one publishes it? So what. What if you constantly doubt yourself? What if you never finish a manuscript? Surely, you will never get published because you won’t have anything to publish. 

As a beginning creative writer, I now understand why so many authors fail. They underestimate the amount of work involved. No one magically writes about. The words do not just appear on the page. Someone has to put them there. That someone is you. 

The Cop Who Nothing Except Everything

About two weeks ago, I had the unfortunate opportunity of being pulled over by a twenty-something cop who thought he knew it all about traffic law. It was nearly 11 pm on a busy street when a girl on her cellphone zipped into the street. I pressed my brakes so hard, the tires squealed. As she landed across the street, I heard sirens and saw blue and white lights.

The officer asked for my insurance card which I provided.

“This is not valid for presentation,” said the cop, pushing his glasses over the bridge of his nose.

“It is,” I said, pointing to the card.

“It isn’t. And you failed to yield to a pedestrian and you improperly used your horn.”

“She ran into traffic.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

When he came back to the car, he handed me a ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Of course, my blood boiled, but there was nothing I could do.

Last week, I heard the ticket. I thought I would catch a break when the officers in the other defendants’ cases failed to show and so they were dismissed. Nope. Glasses Cop showed up in a White Sox hoodie.

“If you plead guilty,” said the judge to me, “You’ll have to pay just $214 in court fees, no traffic fine and this will not be reported on your driving record.”

“What if I want a trial?” I asked.

“If you lose, the conviction will go on your driving record, you will have to pay court fees and I could fine you an additional $500.”

I contemplated pleading out. But my ego would not let me. I felt I was right.

“I will take the trial,” I said.

After Glasses Cop gave his side, I gave mine. I argued that the girl abruptly entered the street, endangering not just her life and mine but others as well.

“And Illinois traffic law section b says no pedestrian shall suddenly run or walk into oncoming traffic,” I ended.

The judge was stern-faced. I could not tell what she was thinking.

“After hearing both sides, I find the officer to be credible. I find the defendant credible as well. Since the State has failed to meet its burden of proof, I find the defendant not guilty,” said the judge.

As she read her verdict, I was a plethora of emotions from anxious to nervous. Then, I was elated. As I left the courtroom, I thanked the judge and the officer. But Glasses Cop was highly upset. If looks could turn people to stone, I would have been one.

Someone once told me, “You can’t beat the system, but you can trick it.” I agree.

Near Death Experience

One of my most devastating moments occurred when I was just twelve years old when I was hit by a car. I hardly ever talk about this, and I don’t know why. What I do know is that since that moment, I have always been aware of how life can change within just a matter of moments.

In grammar school as I have been throughout most of my life, I was somewhat a prick. Before Tristain and I became best friends, I was his enemy. I would pick on him and call him names, mostly because he wore glasses and had a long “tail” (a single braid of hair located towards the back of an otherwise shaved head).

“You’re ugly,” I said to Tristain.

“You’re ugly,” he said.

So on this day, while in line after lunch, I punched Tristain in the stomach. Unfortunately, our teacher saw it. She was a behemoth of a woman who wore a blonde mullet and glasses. After asking how I would like to be punched, she socked me in the stomach. I lost my breath and went down for the count.

I was enraged, so I ran out of school. The security guard, a former stripper, chased behind me. He was too late, as I jetted into the street. I remember being hit by a blue sedan. I was knocked into a pole, but I managed to stumble away. When I came to, I was surrounded by people from my project building. They were all telling me to be still.

The ambulance came and the paramedics cut me from my clothes. The fifty cents I’d had in my pocket is still unaccounted for. I don’t remember any pain.

I was out of school for two weeks while a large sore on the right side of my face healed. Although there were cameras in the school and it was confirmed that my teacher had punched me in the stomach, nothing was immediately done about it. This was the 90s, a different era in a different part of Chicago.

Eventually, the teacher who punched me was either fired or relocated. I learned not to punch people.

Composite Love: Why I Always Fall for Her Type

The biggest mistake I consistently make is loving the same type of chick all over again. My first relationship was with Quetta. She was pretty, seductive but self-centered and calculating. Fool me once, you know what they say. 

Even after Quetta and I separated, it was like I found her all over again in other girls. I would complain about a girl’s attitude and I would compare her to Quetta. Maybe I was the problem. So, I found Brea. 

Opposed to Quetta, Brea was not an A-student. She did not value education, but she was herself. She was not trying to be someone she wasn’t. Brea was not only from the hood. She was hood.  

On a late night while browsing Facebook, I met Brea. We were already FB friends. I don’t know how that came to be. All I know is that she grew up in the same area as I did and attended the same grammar school, but we had not once crossed paths. 

What swayed me was Brea’s extremely large breasts. It sounds shallow and childish bow, but back then it was enough to warrant my attention. And so I copied and pasted her a generic message I used to send to every girl I liked: 

Hey, beautiful. You are very attractive, but I know there’s more to you than a pretty face. I would like to get to know you. I hope you feel the same and I am not being too forward. Have a wonderful day. 

And Brea was smitten. After a few messages, we exchanged numbers and she eventually came to my apartment. She was even more appealing in person. It did not take much to get her undressed. She was…experienced, but her past did not bother me a bit. 

After a brief conversation, we undressed each other. Her body was perfect: flat stomach, big perky breasts, even skin tone. I couldn’t help myself. I ate her like a last meal. She tasted so clean. There wasn’t an ounce of odor. 

“Please, stick it in,” she moaned after she came. 

Brea pulled me on top of her and I went inside without hesitation. She was warm as Christmas Eve by the fire place. Her juices trickled down my thighs. I took her from the front, back and side. I pulled her hair, called her dirty names and came inside her. 

I was spent, but it was not over. She made me stand, as she dropped to her knees. She licked every part of my manhood. It was the best I had ever had. She slapped it across her face. When I came, she swallowed the majority and used the rest as facial moisturizer. 

That night, she became my girlfriend. Maybe she was a slut. Mayne she wasn’t. I did not know, but I wanted her. I lusted for her. There is more to come, but the most important part of it all is that she was poison. 

Millennium Park Seduction

Quetta and I became acquainted rather oddly. Before she was my high school sweetheart, we lived our lives parallel, our paths never really crossing even though we had many of the same classes. 

Back then, I was just a scrawny kid with gaps between every one of my teeth. Everyone knew me as “smart,” but I didn’t live up to my potential. I just got by. 

Quetta saw something in me she liked. This urged her to give me a note with three pictures of her and her sister and her phone number. I never used the number. I remember her sliding me these things and how weird I felt. She was pretty, but what was her point with me?

So, months passed and she eventually took my number and called me. The first time we had sex, it was amazing and confusing. She cried. 

“Why are you crying.” I said, stopping mid-stroke. 

“Because I feel like a whore. I’m seventeen and I’ve had sex with three different boys already,” she said.

This year, one of those men she had sex with was killed, taken before his time. But back then, I assured her she wasn’t a whore. She loved me for this. 

Months later, we went to the movies. In light of her jerking me off, I have forgotten what we went to see. She couldn’t keep her hands off me, and then things escalated. 

“I want to have sex,” she said, rubbing my manhood. 

“We will when we get home,” I said. 

“I want sex in Millennium Park. Now.” 

I was taken aback, but I kept me composure. In Millenium Park, while people tossed frisbees and drank beer, Quetta and I had sex behind a bush. She rode me until she came. 

She put back on all her clothes. By now, the wind had picked up. She told me how much she had enjoyed it. I didn’t cum. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy it. I felt uncomfortable. It would be years before moments like these actually turned me on.