Friday's Star: John Atchison
John Atchison is a former 20 year IT guy turned writer by necessity. Writing was a passion growing up, but somewhere along the way, other pursuits clouded that. John began his writing rebirth penning pieces for Ciao.com. From there, he has spent much time working for Helium, Yahoo, and Bubblews. His dream is to one day write a book about his crazy journey through life.
Hi John and welcome to Mandy’s Pages! It is fantastic that you're with us as this week's Friday’s Star! Would you like to introduce yourself? How would you describe yourself as a writer?
Hello, my name is John Atchison. I am a father of two boys, and married to a wonderful woman named Pam. As a writer, I consider myself a jack of all trades. I have penned articles on most every topic, from sports to women’s beauty products.
Writing all sorts of topics can be fascinating but also demanding. What triggered you to start writing? Was there any special motivation?
Unemployment is what triggered my writing. Losing a career, in a down economy, forces one to look at any avenue to make ends meet. There was also a part of me that wanted to get back to my roots. I had been a sportswriter through high school, but went a different direction in college.
Is it hard for you to find your ideas?
There are no great secrets to my ideas. I have always had an ability to pull things out of my head. It could be something I experienced. It could be an event that has taken place, or a topic I heard being discussed in passing. I also love reading the ole newspaper, which can lead one down many paths.
From all these topics, is there anything you mostly prefer to write about?
If I had one thing I lean more towards, it is sports. I was an athlete from a very young age, who had aspirations of playing professional baseball. I was well on my way, when a gruesome injury put an end to that dream. I consider myself multi-faceted, though. I have written on a wide variety of topics across five sites during my time as a writer.
Many fellow writers have a sort of Writing Routine. Is that the case for you too?
There is not much of a routine, as I tend to write on a whim. If anything, I will jot down a list of topics that I want to write on, and then work my way down a list. Some of my sites have a deadline, so those take some research time.
John, with all that writing experience, would you consider yourself an expert in your field?
I am an expert in one topic, and that is sports. I could take days on just about every sport. My vast collection of articles in the sports genre includes biographies, debate questions, opinion pieces, along with previews of coming events.
Many fellow writers, including myself, face writing blocks. Does this sound familiar to you?
In close to a decade of writing, plus back in high school, the concept of writer’s block never really hit me. I always had a talent for expressing myself in the written word. If I could have taken half of that talent for oral communication, I might have been a politician!
Funny how many of us face that too; the written versus the oral word. To be honest, writing blocks are often a waste of time if you don’t learn how to clear your mind to your own benefit. Are there any challenges that you face as a writer?
I think every writer deals with their own unique set of challenges. I am a big believer that no two writers are the same, and have their own niche. For me, the biggest challenges I face are structural. For all the writing I have done, grammar and punctuation have been my biggest demons. There can also be times when I can be far too wordy.
Ok, this is a question most writers find quite motivating: If a publisher were to review your work, how do you think they would grade you on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the best?
I think I would get a 7 or 8 for topic coverage, while somewhere in the middle on the grammar and punctuation marks. I once worked on a site where I was always praised for great articles, but got drilled for too many commas. It is the reason I am still confused today by the role of the editor.
How would you rate your quality of writing from 1 to 10?
Quality of writing - I give a 5. I write with passion, and put all of myself into the work. By the same token, I give myself a middle grade because I know that I have much to learn to reach the top of my profession.
Are there any 'Writing Tips' you could offer to fellow writers?
Writing tips, now there is a topic that I have not given much thought to. I think first off, always keep an open mind when reading others work. Young or old, there is always something more one can learn about writing from others. Never be afraid of taking on a topic. Sure, there is some angst about the unknown, but once you research, it gives the writer another topic to be versed in. I think the other thing is to always write with passion! Passion is the essence of writing. If you are writing on topics that do not evoke your passion, then it is not something one should be writing about.
Many writers claim that reading books helps them to write better. Do you love to read?
To be honest, I am not a prolific book reader. On occasion, I have been intrigued by certain works. I read interesting offerings on coach Vince Lombardi and coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. In school, I used to read much more. Nowadays, I have become an internet article worm, so to speak. I read articles on numerous sites, for which I cannot get enough. Oh, and I am one of those dinosaurs that still reads the Washington Post from cover to cover.
Any favorite quotation or any personal advice you would like to share?
Perhaps my favorite quote comes from Coach Lombardi, who said, 'If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?’ That is prolific in my estimation. In the world of online writing now, everyone is competitive. Whether that is for views, or for some other goal, that is what it comes down to. Do not write if you are not passionate about it. A lack of passion in ones work come through in their words. One bad piece can turn off the viewing public for a long time, so bring everything you have when you write something.
Why should a publisher or client hire you?
A publisher or client hires me for the passion. I might have some rough edges, but the passion shines through in my work.
Do you think about your future, John? Are there any particular goals or dreams that you've set yourself upon and that you'd like to share with us?
I have been someone who cannot look into the future. My future is murky, at best. I have been a stay at home dad, who is working to get two sons through school. My youngest has a learning disability, which can be somewhat daunting to face. My beautiful wife was diagnosed, for the second time, with breast cancer. This time it is metastatic, so it is a daily challenge. She fights her battle like a true warrior, but it has taught me that tomorrow is not a given. Live every day for today, and do not spend time fretting about life down the road.
You sure have been dealt a challenging hand at life, John. Thank you for sharing that with us and for your words of wisdom. It has been inspiring having you here at Mandy's Pages. Pam and your boys must be very proud of you. Thank you once again, and I wish you the very best - for you and your family. God bless!
For more information on John, check out his Helium & Bubblews profiles
Image Credit: John Atchison
For more details, contact
Mandy’s Pages Tanka Resources