I’m a one-person operation and always have been. Because it’s important to many of the people I work with, I like to stress that I’m an American-born resident of the USA and have never lived anywhere else. Currently I live in Oceanside, Calif. I speak and write only one language: English. Having grown up and lived about 60 percent of my life in southern California, I have a vague grasp of Spanish. Key word “vague.”
In elementary school, I was obsessed with writing skits and short stories. My mother encouraged it. She also was a writer. My dad didn’t encourage it. He thought I needed to learn something useful, like welding.
In high school, I met the wrong/right crowd and immediately got into the Ramones, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and all the usuals. I started playing guitar and writing songs, both of which I still do. I also began writing more elaborate skits (“plays,” you could call them) and parodies of anything I could find humor in, which was most things. I got on a poetry jag a few years after that but got out of it after I realized A. there’s no money in poetry, and B. poetry is hard unless you’re Bob Dylan or from England!
I’ve always been interested in the ways businesses communicate with their markets; even as a child, TV commercials and magazine ads fascinated me as much as the programs and articles they were sponsoring. I thought it would be great to create those marketing pieces, writing living words that influence people and drive commerce. I thought this would be an easy practice – I know now that it’s not, but it’s definitely a good fit for me.
I did some time in junior college and so-called “writing classes.” Books on grammar and style and a lot of writing helped me more than the formal stuff. I have a love-hate relationship with the English language: I love it for what it can do when done right; I hate it because working with it at the level I do now creates a lot of pressure sometimes.
The main reason for the pressure and the overall difficulty that accompanies the writing profession was described well by Ernest Hemingway, who wrote 47 endings to his novel A Farewell to Arms before he finally turned in the manuscript. Asked some years later by Paris Review what took him so long, he said, “Getting the words right.”
(Hemingway shot himself eventually, but nobody knows if this was because of the pressurized life of a writer, or because he had driven his life into such an unrecognizable and unsustainable place, it seemed like the only logical answer.)
This is getting long, so here’s the quick version of how I got to where I am now: in the mid-nineties I started writing resumes (for money), which led to business people hiring me to write marketing copy, which lead to four years as a stringer for a large daily newspaper, which led to significant improvement in my writing ability, which led to starting Doug Thomas Communications. That was a good chunk of my life ago, and I’ve yet to come close to picking up a shotgun – or writing a novel as good as any that Hemingway wrote.