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My striking rendition of the first neighborhood I lived in. That master Hula Hooper standing in the street is me.

Being a writer is a funny thing. Saying you’re a writer is even stranger. When I was an editor at my first job after college, I managed a small handful of freelance writers to help us out with some of the less interesting interviews and articles we needed for our magazine. Even though I was just out of school and still had some things of my own to learn (Passive Voice, you bastard), I was utterly amazed at how bad some of the submissions were from some of those supposed writers. Back in college, there were always some people in English or communications classes who just couldn’t seem to string together a coherent paragraph. But these freelancers were real adults, sloppily tossing the ‘writer’ label around like it was body paint at a yoga festival. How dare they, I thought. Don’t they know how bad this is?

No, I now realize – they did not know. If they did, they sure didn’t give a rat’s ass. But more importantly, it also didn’t matter what they called themselves. If they wanted to be writers and were making money putting words together, who was I to have a vote on what they label themselves? Carly Rae Jepsen is just as much of a musician as Robert Plant – they both make music, they both make money doing it, and they both serve the musical needs of somebody, somewhere. [cue John Bonham rolling in his grave…]

What actually does matter is that if I’m going to be a writer, I want to be confident that it’s something I’m good at and that I challenge myself to be the best writer I can be. Whipping out a fun blog post about timelines and snowstorms is one thing, but the craft of writing is something that I know I need to honor and respect à la Zeppelin. It’s been seven years since I graduated from college, and about that long since I’ve really studied and practiced writing as an art form. So this week, I decided that’s what I needed to do. Though it’s going to take far more than a week to work my way through it, I’ve been getting back to the basics with Writing Life Stories, a book about what it takes to craft a story and how to do it in a way that is artful and engaging for the reader. So far, I’ve created a map of the first neighborhood I lived in (above) to help practice jogging memories and written some pretty nifty first paragraphs for the book. It’s just a start, but I now have 300 more words of the first draft of Venus Retrograde than I did last week.

Yes, I am a writing snob; I am also a snob about beer, and am currently considering whether or not I will become a snob about whiskey as well. That doesn’t mean I’m going to insist everyone around me drink better hootch and sign a pledge to leave Miller Light in the frat houses where it belongs. But when it comes to deciding what I want for myself, I’m generally sticking with the microbrews and “Ramble On.” I also want to write an awesome book, and if that means practice, practice, practice, so be it. But that doesn’t mean you won’t catch me dancing my ass of to “Call Me Maybe” or posting some mindless funny business on twitter.

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When I was four, I was walking to a friend’s house when this bee stung me in the foot. He was asshole. (the bee, not the friend)

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