I used to write a lot of fiction, starting back in elementary school and continuing through high school. This came to a rather abrupt end starting in college, and I've often wondered why. If you didn't know anything about the school I went to, the University of Missouri - Rolla, then you might think that perhaps the busy social life college presents distracted my from writing. But, if you have heard of Rolla, or experienced UMR, then you know that Rolla is in the middle of nowhere, has a ratio of four guys to every girl, and is about as socially rambunctious as a funeral parlor in a war-stricken corner of the world.
Fellow UMR alums might conclude that Rolla merely sucked the life force and creative juices from my very marrow. But, if this explanation were true, then wouldn't the fiction writing resume upon my escape from Rolla? When I graduated from UMR I came out here to San Diego and, initially, tried to restart the writing. First, I tried to just sit down and write. Sadly, that didn't go to well. After struggling with getting started writing fiction again, I decided to step up my efforts, and started going to a weekly Writer's Workshop. This workshop took place every Wednesday from 1:00 to 2:00 in the afternoon. Due to its working-day hours, the group was me, unemployed people, and housewives. Don't get me wrong, there were some very talented writers in the group - some of those unemployed folks were starving artists, working on the American Novel.
The woman organizing the event started each session by announcing the germ of our writing by means of a simple sentence. The one that sticks out in my mind was, "I came into the kitchen, and pudding was everywhere." Then, we took this idea and wrote for half an hour to 45 minutes, after which we shared our works with the others by reading them aloud.
While the workshop was entertaining and a good break, the writing during the meeting still felt forced. During these writing workshop visits, though, I was starting to date the woman who would become my fiancee and soon-to-be-wife, so that provided some inspiration for writing. What I often found myself doing, though, was writing at home when the fancy struck, and then, essentially, repeating my earlier writings at the workshop, trying desperately to fit them into the starter-sentence given to us for that day.
I stopped going to the workshop after a month and a half, or so, but what really has stuck in my mind since attending is the stark difference in reality-perception between myself and some of the other writers. Some of the better fiction writers at this workshop always wrote about the same set of fictional characters, and the events that transpired. In the socialization that inevitible occured both before and after the workshop, these people would talk about these characters as if the really existed. They'd let people know what events had recently transpired for these characters, and what was new in their "lives." It's as if these people could write fiction so well because they had a hard time disambiguating between fact and fiction in reality.
So, sadly, I haven't written fiction since high school. Sure, there were some short bursts a couple years ago soon after moving to San Diego, but nothing I'm especially proud of. This leads me back to my original question - why is it that I used to be able to write fiction so fluidly, but can do so no longer? The answer, I fear, is computer science.
In order to be a good computer programmer, your mind has to be trained to think in a very straightforward, logical way. With logic (and therefore computer science), there are infallible rules that govern how reality functions. If a implies b, and a occurs, then b will occur. By its very name, fiction does not imply such rigidity. Writing fiction and programming comptuers pits the mind in a conflict, and either the programming or the fiction is bound to suffer.
Do these ideas hold merit? Can one be a stellar computer programmer and a superb author of fiction? I have no doubt that there are some insanely brilliant individuals who can do both exceptionally well, but I'd be willing to wager dollars to donuts that writing fiction and programming are diametric tasks.