Get Writing

Editor's note: The following expands on an August 1, 2012 post titled "Why We Write about Writing."

The long-standing missions of the Red Bull Rising blog are:
  • To illuminate ways in which citizen-soldiers past and present—as well as their families—can be remembered, supported, and celebrated.
One of the ways people can "remember, support, and celebrate" is to record and share their experiences with the military through the written or spoken word. You don't need to be an seasoned writer or story-teller. You don't need to have done heroic things, or to have witnessed the horrors of war.

You don't even need to be a soldier or a veteran. That's why I prefer to ask people about their "connections with the military." It seems to open up the door to more people, memories, family ties and histories. We all have stories about the military. Some, we gather first-hand. Some, we have passed to us, generation to generation. A few, we piece together from observing ripples and shadows, and finding fragments and artifacts that others have left behind.

All you need to do is to take the time to put your thoughts together. Take as long as you like—minutes, months, or years. Be prepared, however, to surprise yourself along the way.

Here's your first assignment: Write a short history of your connections with the military. If you are a veteran, describe not only your own service in uniform, but other family members' as well. Remember to answer questions such as:
  • When were you in uniform?
  • Why did you join the military?
  • What places did you travel through the military?
  • Who in your family served in uniform? When and how did they serve?
  • What was your proudest day in uniform?
  • What was your saddest day in uniform?
  • What was your most humorous anecdote in uniform?
Of course, you may aspire to do write something other than memoir. Perhaps you want to express yourself in fiction or poetry. And, regardless of what you're writing, you may even be motivated to see your words published online or in print.

If and when you feel ready to share your work with others, seek out others who are experimenting with writing similar things in similar ways. You could:
  • Start writing a blog. Publish it to a select few, or whole wide world.
  • Meet with other local writers. Perhaps a local bookstore, coffee shop, or library hosts a writers group or book club?
  • Attend workshops and conferences that focus on writing and publishing.
  • Submit your work to contests, journals, and anthologies. (Take care, however, to watch out for publications that ask for payment in order to include your work, or that acquire more than just one-time rights to your work.)
Here is a two-part blog post with even more ideas:
Finally, here are a few books that other writers—from beginners to professionals—have found to be useful resources:



For an accessible conversation on writing personal history or memoir, check out Dale Keuter's "The Smell of the Soil," which is reviewed here. In particular, see his chapter titled "I Have No War Stories." Buy the book here.



Journalist Isaac Cubillos regularly rails against military jargon he encounters both in print and on-line. He writes: "For example, I’ll come across a blogger who is a military spouse, and she writes that she not looking forward to the upcoming P.C.S. 'I’ve been PCS’d so many times, I’m dreading this one,' she might write. Well, unless she’s blogging to other military wives, no one from the outside would know that she was talking about moving to a new base." To help other writers and editors translate mil-speak into plain language, Cubillos continues to update his Military Reporters Stylebook and Reference Guide, now in its second edition. Buy the book here.



With Midwestern practicality, former U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser has written an light-hearted and enlightening book titled The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets. This book is for anyone who wishes to get more out of poetry, whether as a reader or as a writer. Even practiced poets will glean new insights and techniques. Buy the book here.



Written by Ron Capps, the Veterans Writing Project textbook "Writing War" covers basic tools such as setting, plot, character, and dialogue. It also discusses the literary, historical, and potentially therapeutic aspects of writing about military experiences. Given that the works cited within its pages are nearly all examples of military fiction and non-fiction, the book serves as something of a sampler, as well as a primer. There's even two appendices: One offering who's-who-style author bios, the other presenting suggested readings in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Buy the book here.

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