Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

October 2nd, 2000

It's About Writing

Writing seems to be an elusive thing. I've heard it said, "Either you've got it or you don't."

Could be true, nor not - if not there's a heck of a bunch of people who have gone through journalism classes, creative writing and beyond English 101 who have wasted their time, money and effort. Writing, at least the mechanics of it can be taught. Subjects can be researched. Articles, stories and books are written.

The ones that stand out may not be the result of tutelage. It sure helps to be able to use the correct verbs and tense to make the writing readable - but the difference in good writing seems to be the knowledge of the subject and most of all passion! No, I don't mean the hot, steamy scenes either. It's writing about what you know.

A little while back we had an interesting batch of comments on what it takes to write on our Bulletin Board. Some of the respondents explained how they write, concept, outline the whole thing. I don't remember if any mentioned a beginning, middle, end and denouement which should be part of any writing, fiction or fact.

Al Campbell who has written many articles and sections here on Fly Anglers Online, works from an outline. Al is a fine writer, (proof in this case is sale of his book on Beginning Fly Tying to Frank Amato Publications). Others may be inspired by something they read - and disagreed with. Others get inspiration from a million different sources.

Castwell seems to pull things out of the air, sits down and writes in one sitting, re-reading it once or twice and then sends it on to me for a final edit.

I know writers who jot down notes in a little notebook they carry in a shirt pocket. The story comes together from those notes. For a long time I kept a note pad by my bed, it seemed the best thoughts of the day came when my mind was shutting down, or wide awake in the dead of the night. I haven't done that for a while, exhaustion over takes rational thought.

I don't know if I write differently than others. I think. The actual story, article or column is written in my head before I ever sit down at the keyboard. I rarely have to totally rewrite something. I may take out and replace something which seems to be in the wrong place. I use my spell-checker. Strunk's Elements of Style is a hand-reach away, as are a few other references. Often I will read background material before I start 'thinking' the piece through. It's an odd way to write I suspect, but it works for me.

We have many professional writers who read FAOL, and a few who either write for us or who post on our Bulletin Board. The great majority of what you read here however is not by 'professional' writers. Some articles just show up. (That is always a wonderful surprise!) I get inquiries from folks who say they want to write something and nothing ever shows up.

I do make a point of encouraging anyone who feels the urge to share an experience, tip or technique to do so. It enriches this website - the readers - and the writer! That is a win-win situation. Just seeing something YOU wrote in print (well electronic print) is very cool. It's a rush of a different kind - very satisfying.

It's my belief everyone who has ever fished has a story to tell. Like many of the big fish stories, those tend to get better with repeated telling, but the point here is unlike many sports, outdoor activities or occupations, fly fishing is something we want to share. It might just be a phone call to a friend (that is story telling) or in this computer age, an email. An email counts as writing!

The 'piece' that sticks in your mind from that one trip - it is a story worth telling. Big fish? Little fish? Wrong fish? No fish? How about fly tying? A local fly? A technique? Different material? Rod building? Something that really works for you? Have a funny streak? We could all use a little humor!

I know you've got a story to tell. And I want to hear it! Don't get all tangled up with what is 'proper' - those stories never materialize. One of our former Sponsors spent a year telling me about the article he was writing for us on how to buy hackle. Every time I talked to him it was out being edited. It wasn't ready yet. Never mind that we have people who are editors! The story never got here. Our loss, because the gentlemen is very knowledgeable - I'm sure that article would have really been appreciated by our fly tiers.

So here is an invitation. Give it a shot. Sit down at your computer and put that story you've just been thinking about on your hard drive. Start a new file called Writing. Write something and put it in the Writing file. Run it through the Spell Checker, email it to me. We will do whatever is necessary and find a place for it here.

You might not ever get a better offer. And you might just be surprised, you could have 'it.' ~ LadyFisher

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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