“Tell me a story,” she said…
I suppose, with a blank slate and empty text box in front of me, it is right and proper to start with the basics.
My name is Joshua Bruce, and I am a writer. I am many other things as well, husband, computer geek/IT professional, queer, activist, video gamer, sports nut, runner and cook. But I am a writer and this is significant because I have often spent my whole life writing but never until recently had I considered myself a writer.
It could be said that this change was brought on by a move. In late 2014 my wife was informed that she had been tapped for a new position in Singapore, and six months later, we were getting on a plane with one-way tickets to the Lion City. Her contract term was slated to be short, so applying for work and a work visa for me was not deemed worth it. Now a “trailing spouse”, I’d been given the incredible privilege to have the time to work on my writing skills and career. Part of this time was spent working on a novel. Part of it was spent detailing our travels and trials in Rose City Transplants. Part of it was also spent playing video games and having goofy times with the Singapore Writers Group.
What has really changed however is the confidence in my ability and the nearly daily practice at the skill. Writing, and I suppose the same is true of many creative abilities, is a skill of repetition and copious amounts of failure. I’m not speaking of the litany of rejections that’s so well known about the industry but rather the trial and error nature of writing something – you write some words and sometimes it doesn’t work out. So you hit delete a few1thousand times and try again. Those that know me well will say that’s likely the reason I really never progressed as a writer before. I’m a cautious sort, someone who doesn’t like striking out without a plan to cover the inevitable what-goes-wrong. It’s very workable when planning a software rollout. It’s not so great for creativity.
So it’d be more fair to say that what’s changed is me. It would be ridiculous to imply that before I moved to Singapore that I had no creative inkling, that I was just an un-fun geek who lived by schedule and meticulous planning. But some of that was there. The creativity came in spurts, and sometimes in odd mediums, like company-wide emails2Yes, seriously. I once got in trouble for being “too funny” in an email. Not inappropriate, just too humorous..
So what does this have to do with why we’re here?
I’ve mentioned my other site, the above-linked Rose City Transplants. That project has been an amazing journey – what started as an infrequent and rambling3perish the thought journal turned into a weekly digest of our travels through South-East Asia and beyond. Approaching that blog as a weekly “column” of sorts gave me focus and a center. That site has its limits, though. There are a variety of things that I enjoy writing that don’t fit into RCT. Extending that site to just have a space where I can type words about how big of a geek I am4or sports nut, or whatever doesn’t make sense. Plus, I sort of view the RCT site as something of a time capsule. At some point, we’re going to move back to Portland and that project will come to end with the expat period of my life. Maybe it will turn into a book, maybe it will just be there, a constant reminder of when I was courageous enough to try something new without a backup plan. Who knows? I have no idea how this story ends, I just keep it moving forward.
So, here we are. A Few Different Words has a lot of previous versions. Technically, it’s been around since 1998, the original a story-telling site bordered in terrible iframes and pixelated transparent GIFs, hosted on my friend’s webhosting5said server may have been in his closet. No joke, I had a few home servers running back then.. I’ve gone back to it and given it an update from time to time, always keeping the same theme – a variety of topics from the uber geeky6there was a legit running 30 days of video games thing. I’m debating bringing it back. to college life, to non-fiction thoughts on everything from love, sports and now, travel.
This site started, though, with a request. It was late 1997 and I was smitten, and while the relationship never went anywhere, she rested up against me and snuggled into a more comfortable position.
“Tell me a story,” she said.
We had met, and I need to tell you this story because it’s fucking hilarious, but we had met on the CalPoly ride board. She picked me up in her Honda Accord and my first thought was that she was some sort of snobby sorority girl. I settled in for an uncomfortable five hours of a car ride. She had assumed that I was some jock frat boy, so she too clammed up as we drove north. About an hour in or so, we started to open up, and I mentioned that I like to write.
She said “Oh, me too!” and then asked what sort of things did I write.
And of course, I steeled myself for the uncomfortable response as I answered, “uh, Fantasy.”
“Holy crap I love fantasy! What do you like? Have you read Mercedes Lackey? David Eddings is so funny, I love Silk!”
And that gentle reader, as they say, was that. We spent the entire ride up and the entire ride back down a week later talking about writing and somewhere along that ride back, I think maybe when we stopped for food and I looked across my Taco Bell nachos7this was college, we were broke, eat me, I decided that she was gorgeous and I may have even told her so.
But it never went anywhere, like I just told you. Just a few shared moments. But her words at that moment, they struck a chord within me. When she asked for a story, something clicked and I realized that goddamnit yes I really do like to tell stories. A few months later, I ICQ’d her81998, yo the url for the first version of A Few Different Words and she fucking TORE APART my fantasy short story about a college kid learning to be a sorcerer, and it was glorious. The story was crap, but that was back when I didn’t fear making mistakes as much. I ran that story in the first “issue” of AFDW along side serious thoughts on Valentines’ Day and an introduction laden with way too much heavy-handed symbolism that probably didn’t make a lick of sense to anyone but me.
Again, you make those mistakes.
So this is what you’re going to get here on A Few Different Words. I’ve copied over some of my favorite pieces from Rose City Transplants, and I’ll probably sneak some old stuff when you’re not looking. In short, this is mostly a portfolio site, but as the name suggests, nothing is going to be absolute here. There’ll be stories that might not be your cup of tea, or maybe articles copied over from Rose City Transplants that you’ve already read, or serious thoughts about something going on in the world, going on in my head or even about a comic book movie.
Welcome to A Few Different Words. I hope you enjoy the stories I tell.