“Ahem. Is this thing on?” The microphone whines. “Ok.” I shuffle some papers, looking uneasy. “I am submitting this as my entry to the Cupcake Wars contest. In this entry—”
Somebody offstage is making gestures and faces at me. What the hell does that mean? Are you climbing a mountain? What?
“Excuse me. My apologies. I am @negativer, and this is my entry for the Write Your Own (Steemfest) Ticket contest.”
More or less, that’s how my Steemit career began. Somewhat sloppy, mostly accidental, and with only a moderate degree of success.
I’m a writer, so my interactions with Steemit have centered around writing. As such, it may be of interest to know why I even consider myself a writer. Those on tight schedules may wish to skip ahead.
I started writing in high school, since writing was, oddly enough, a requirement of my the writing classes I was a part of. Standards in my mid-Wisconsin (USA) school seemed to be low, since a lot of the peer-reviewed essays I read through had barely the basics of proper punctuation, grammar and formatting.
I’m not sure if I was much better at the time, but I was an avid reader. Not counting the Dr. Seuss days, I quickly launched into reading fantasy fiction when I was twelve. Lloyd Alexander’s 1965 series The Chronicles of Prydain started me off, with The Book of Three, the first of the five books in the series.
After reading through them uncountable times, I moved on to miscellaneous sci-fi books, a few Stephen Kings, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, and the Japanese historical fiction of James Clavell. Well before I found a love of anime and the Japanese culture, I enjoyed those books from Clavell.
Mixed in with that was, of course, Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series. Any proper fantasy fan would be remiss in not mentioning those, although modern readers are probably fine with just watching the movies. Love of those books generally became a love of all fantasy and adventure fiction. And as any writer knows, you have to be a good reader in order to be a good writer. I was halfway there!
In school, standards are typically low in the art of writing and poetry, since the lowest common denominator is usually quite low indeed.
I had to write a lot of essays and a lot of poetry, and most of the work from my fellow students felt like last-minute work. Rushed, and pointless, and barely up to the standard of being read.
Yes, it sounds arrogant. But without standards, we all just settle for whatever is easiest and quickest, and there was a lot of settling going on.
I spent a lot of time on my work. Outlines, writing, first draft, second draft, sometimes a third draft. All that writing is gone now. Lost in time and space and distance. Some of it may have been good, but likely not. Probably best to pretend it never existed.
I kept most of my poetry, however. Those thin tendrils of memory from my past self are still connected to me now. I barely remember writing them, but my passionate youth burned with the fire of love and hate and emotion and frustration, and a lot of it spilled out on paper as poetry.
I wish I could corral that passion from decades ago with the experience of who I am right now. Maybe that’s the magical combination of the perfect writer.
Near the end of my high school career, in the last year, I had the option to go to college. As is the challenge for all students in the United States, the choice of college (or not) depends largely on financial ability and the means to pay for two or more years.
I was financially disabled, for all intents.
I had received a writing scholarship as a result of a writing competition I had entered. I still have the newspaper clipping laying around somewhere. Me with my bowl-cut hairdo, standing proud with a couple other kids who had submitted and placed as well.
Still, doing the math, the scholarship barely paid for half of the first year of college. My family was not well off, and so for all practical purposes the door was closed to me. And thus, I did not go.
I launched myself into the workforce at the age of 18 as a self-taught and self-professed 3D artist and multimedia developer.
A young bachelor working second shift, probably lonely and certainly with a lot of time on his hands, I started writing a novel.
This continued on until I switched to a different job with a normal first shift schedule, and I met my wife (wife-to-be at that point, of course, since it’d be awkward to meet your wife before you actually got married to her). My novel of some 20,000 words sat on a 3.5” floppy disc and a tiny 6 point font printout (since I was cheap and didn’t want to use up all my laser printer toner; toner was expensive back in the mid 1990s!)
Years passed. Decades passed (oh crap, I’m old). I forgot about my novel.
Steem and Steemit
It was twenty years since I had written fiction, and at least that long since I’d written poetry.
Then I joined steemit.com in June of 2017.
No, it was not the glorious singing of angels and fast-paced video montage you might see in a movie when everything is going swell and a jaunty song plays in the background while everyone gets along.
I joined, posted some posts, made some comments, earned a few bucks, and was generally lost in the shuffle. I despaired, languished, and eventually ignored steemit for a month or two.
Then I found a writing contest, from @dbzfan4awhile, sometime in August. My wife encouraged me to enter. I hadn’t written for a long time, so I kept saying no. But then I said yes.
I won, but only because he had very few entries. No particular measure of the quality of my story, but that was fine. I was writing again. I was hooked again.
@dbzfan4awhile did a couple more contests that I submitted for, and after that I started looking for others to throw my words at.
Since then, since August, I’ve not stopped writing. I’ve had at least one story percolating in my brain, and usually more than one. I picked up my old novel from 20 years ago and starting writing against that, and it’s up to well over 100k words now. Let me tell you, it’s a weird thing to pick up a portion of a novel you wrote 20 years ago and not remember writing any of it. It’s even better when you think ‘hey, this is pretty good.’
I was also part of the April Camp Nanowrimo (Novel writing month) challenge, and the novel spawned from that is now at 40k words. I submitted the chapter one from that first draft to a recent @thewritersblock first chapter contest and it placed third. I’ll take it!
Ah, and The Writers’ Block. After joining there in the fall of 2017 I wrote more prolifically than I ever had, and wrote some pieces I am quite proud of. I’ve met some excellent writers and editors there and learned so much from that. I’m a moderator in that group on Discord and am a member of several other writing groups as well.
If Steemit is about good content, then my goal is to write good content for steemit. I’m not a developer, not a marketing person, but I can write. If we can raise the visibility of good content on Steemit, then that raises the overall standard and quality of Steemit in general. The Writers’ Block folks are working on a project to do exactly that, and that’s something I’m looking forward to as well.
In the end, Steemit has become a daily part of my life. It’s ingrained in my writing routine, and my ability to publish short stories, chapters, poetry, etc to Steemit and actually have people read it is invaluable to any writer.
And then there’s Steemfest, which is the reason for this excessively long post and the contest it’s going to get thrown at.
It’s not an easy thing to just up and travel to a foreign country to attend a conference. It’s probably not even easy for people that live in Krakow. For me, living in Florida, USA as a self-employed paycheck-to-paycheck web developer (I’m not independently wealthy from my writing yet!), it’s both easy for me to do, and difficult.
Easy, in the sense I don’t have to check if I have vacation time available or beg the boss for a week off. Difficult, in the sense that people that own their own business don’t really have someone to fill in for them when they leave. For me, at least, I can take a laptop and be productive anywhere in the world. At least that’s how I’m imagining it.
But why would I want to go Krakow and Steemfest?
Naturally, any decent human wants to improve himself. He wants to find more and better things, elevate his thinking, and be better than he was. This drive is what improves the human race in general.
As a writer, every story you write — be it fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or something else — is drawn from your own collection of experiences. It’s like picking spices off the shelf in your kitchen when you’re making a stir fry. The more you can feed your mind with these experiences, the more robust and interesting your spice rack becomes, and the better the food your create.
Traveling abroad creates a treasure trove of those kinds of memories and experiences. Traveling to Krakow and meeting others from Steemit, especially folks that I’ve read and respected for so long….well, let’s just say that’d make for a very spicy meatball, indeed. Er…stir fry. Whatever.
Credit to the @thewritersblock, @blocktrades, @curie, and @anomadsoul for helping with this contest and event.