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  • Jennifer Z. Major

The perils and benefits of immersing yourself in a new culture.

Ahhh, culture shock. It can be quite a mountain to climb, especially if you've never been outside your little bubble before.

The language can be incomprehensible, the directions from Point A to Point B can be like nothing you've ever heard before, and let's not even talk about the food.

You think I'm talking about going from Anglo-Canadian culture to the Navajo world in the Southwest?

Nooooo way!

I'm talking about going from ordinary civilian culture, into the crazy, unpredictable, ever-evolving world of The Writer.

Here are a few of the things I never knew existed until I found out that they most certainly did, and wow, say that again?

Lots of people say to me, "Oh, I'd love to write a book, in my spare time" to which I smile, knowing that if they do decide to write, spare time is nothing but a memory. That, and baby, this ain't journaling. I never knew that there are required structures and specific details to master just for the first page.

What is a hook? How is it different from a tagline?

Why just three disasters and an ending? Why not four?

What does it mean to exhaust the reader? To tell versus show?

Or my personal favourite, why 3rd POV and not 1st?

Then we have the years that is takes to learn the actual writer culture itself. Did I know it's impolite to ask an experienced author to read my stuff, even just a paragraph? Nope. But I'm thankful that I approached a sweet writer privately and asked her the etiquette on that. I had SO MUCH to learn!!

One of the biggest lessons is that MY writer journey-and yes that is an overused word, journey- is different from everyone else's.

Besides, an adventure sounds so much more exotic.

In my first few years as a budding writer, I had rose-coloured glasses and thought it was wonderful how everyone got along.

How about now? Well, I wear some fabulous shades and no, I am not friends with everyone.

And before you gasp, dear reader, ask yourself if YOU get along with everyone. If you can honestly answer a full blown YES? Then you're a chocolate coated teddy bear that smells like Christmas cookies.

But, let me say this. I do my level best to get along with everyone I meet. I do look for the good. But not everyone agrees with me and that's entirely fine. I'm fairly sure that many people are not so sure what to do with me, and that's fine too.

Why am I mentioning this? Because a writer needs a solid core of peers for whom trust is a given. Writing is a solitary profession, and we go through a tonne of upheaval. We need to know that we can call on our posse and be certain that if we need to, the posse has our back.

One more thing, for today, anyway? Be prepared that if you choose to follow your calling to write, you will have to give up many other things. All those hours in the day that were previously spent on TV, reading, movies, sewing, knitting, tying flies, painting, etc?

Those will be rare indulgences until you find your ideal writing rhythm, location, and time of day.

So, knowing all that I know, 98% of which didn't get near this post, would I go back to civilian life?


Oh, and the food?

For many, it's coffee. For other's, it's tea. But for most? It's chocolate!!

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