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It began with a Kaypro and spiral-bound notebooks

I think about writing and about how I should quit procrastinating.  But I also think about how I’ve done it.

I’ve had some success – depending on how you gauge it – editing a small magazine[1] and then later as a correspondent for the American News Service.[2]  But that only came after years of laboring away on my then-Kaypro computer, with its 256 kilobyte disks (there were no hard drives in those days: the word processing program, Wordstar, was on one 5 1/4″ disk and the files went on the other).

I wrote query after ineffective query.  I wrote article drafts.  I rewrote article drafts.  I kept revising article drafts long after I should have given them up.  I also made more-or-less regular journal entries in a series of spiral-bound notebooks.

Lately I’ve been looking back through my old folders, article files and journals.  Sometimes I cringe, but I look because I wonder what lessons they contain.

I learned at the only pace that I could: slowly.  But I’ve wondered if it was possible to draw examples from my experience to help beginning writers.  Believe me, it would be worth it if I could help others avoid my false starts and errors.

I also think the name I’ve given this project should be obvious.

Learning from my mistakes.


(Creative Commons photo: “diaper”)

[1] Okay, very small.  Southern Vermont had a print run of 10,000 copies, but, then, we had very few left over.

[2] ANS was co-founded by Frances Moore Lappe, who is probably best known to people of my generation as the author of Diet for a Small Planet,.  Its focus was “solutions oriented journalism”: stories about people who were trying to make positive change.  If my memory is accurate, ANS survived for four years while serving as a free wire service to some 1200 subscribing papers across the country.  It died when its funders insisted it begin charging.  Its subscriber base dried up, a sad commentary on American newspapers.  During the three or four years I wrote for ANS, I was also getting published in the Boston Globe, mainly the Sunday Learning and New England sections; however, via ANS I got published in places like the New Orleans Times Picayune, the Hartford Courant and some of the smallest weeklies you’ve never heard of, mostly in the mid-West.

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