A few of you have asked how I got into writing and how I write. Well, it is a bit complicated. To begin, I always did well in English classes during high school, but it wasn’t until I got overseas in the Air Force that I really learned how to write. The reports we had to write often had time limits but they still had to be well-written. It took some practice, but I eventually became quite good at it.
I left the military after twenty years, returning to college where I found that my word skills served me quite well. Interestingly, just as I got out of graduate school, I wrote a technical piece about BASIC, the entry-level computer programming language. I was surprised when it was rapidly accepted for publication. I was a writer!
But since writing rarely pays the bills, I spent my civilian career earning a living in other ways. There I found that supervisors valued my ability with words, and they often asked me to write reports or polish their own. When I retired, I initially penned a bi-weekly Op-Ed column for the local newspaper, but they did not want articles about international affairs – and certainly nothing about North Korea.
Local topics failed to keep my interest, so I developed an article on North Korea. I submitted it and was again surprised when it was accepted without delay for publication. The rest is history, and by now, my commentaries have been featured in Global Asia, the Guardian, the Hankyoreh, Korea Observer. Additionally, one of my analyses has been cited in the British Parliament’s House of Lords publication In Focus. Currently I am a regular contributor to both Asia Times and North Korea News.
How I write is a tale of evolution. In high school, my papers usually had to be accompanied by an outline, intended to better channel pupil effort. In the military, there was no time for that as speed took precedence. In college, instructors did not care how students wrote – only how well – and it was the same in the civilian world.
These days, if my subject has more than a couple of aspects, I’ll prepare an outline to help me marshal my thoughts. But with or without an outline, I usually jot down ideas or factoids and go from there. During the process, a particular notion might occur to me and I’ll make note of it. Sometimes, though, there isn’t room for or any smooth way to work it into a particular piece and so it goes onto a digital clip board for possible future use.
Admittedly, I am a slow and deliberate writer, so while time spent directly at the keyboard is only about two hours for roughly five hundred words (the length of most Tidbits, including this one), the total elapsed time might be a few days. I have discovered that letting things percolate in the back of my mind for a while yields better results. Hopefully, you readers agree.