Review: Becoming Superman

When I read the book, J. Michael Straczynski’s book Becoming Superman, I became quickly engrossed by the story of a man who fought and kicked adversity’s butt like Superman did to villains who would repeatedly threaten Earth or those he cared for. This autobiography painted a picture of a man who had to leap every tall building adversity erected in a single bound to become Superman. It was a story that I enjoyed reading because like Straczynski, I aspired (and still do) to be Superman and a writer.

The story starts off with Straczynski’s family background that is laced with a dark secret that involves deception, Nazism, and tragedy. However, as the story progresses, we see a young Straczynski slowly develop a resilience that is fueled by his aspiration to becoming Superman. And that aspiration was birthed when, as a boy, he started reading Superman comic books and science fiction novels. And that aspiration also fueled his love for writing stories.

As Straczynski hones his craft as a writer, he slowly but gradually breaks out of his family’s shadow of misfortune and poverty. To me, Straczynski’s resolve to overcome adversity as shown throughout the book,  is more powerful than a locomotive.

In his youth, Straczynski had to face an alcoholic father who was a Lex Luthor, or perhaps a General Zod, to his Superman. He also had to experience repeated moves to different cities in the country. He also encountered schoolyard bullies and slap-happy Catholic Nuns. He also had to experience his share of financial ups and downs while using his gift as a wrtier. He learned to love himself by following his goal to becoming a writer which eventually gave him several opprtunities like writng for newspapers, writing scripts for cartoons and TV shows, writing and producing Babylon 5, writing comic books like The Amazing Spider-Man and Superman: Year One, and writing the scrpt for The Changeling.  And with that, he created an awesome career as a writer.

My favorite part in the book was when Straczynski is at the Cannes Film Festival in Paris. It is here where we see Straczynski envisioning himself unbuttoning his shirt and exposing that familiar red and yellow “S” shield of Superman. In that vision, he flies off to the sunset. This scene symbolizes him coming to grips with his past and his accomplishment of living his dream as an accomplished writer.

This book had taught me that despite our adversity, we need to fight for our dreams regardless. Our circumstances, while understandable, are irrelevant to how we approach our goals in life. Straczynski reminds us that we are not victims and that we can all aspire to be like Superman and do the right thing.

To me, J. Michael Straczynski is Superman. I say this because like Superman, he is brave and never gave up on his dream of becoming a writer despite everything being thrown at him. He could have given up and blame his upbringing or childhood but he let it become a motivator for him to be where he is at today. He inspired me to do the same when I read this quote from him in the book:

“I think that the reason so many unlikely things happened to me is because I never listened to those voices; because I came out of the womb snarling at anyone who told me there was something I couldn’t do; because I learned that to win, I only had to ‘say yes I will’ one more time  than somebody else could say ‘no, you won’t.’ I never walked away from what gave me joy, never surrendered my dreams to those who would profit by eradicating them.”

-J. Michael Straczynski

I often used to blame my problems or shortcomings on other things or people.  Only after the fact, I would feel sadness for doing such. Recently, I had to come to grips with the fact that I have to take ownership for my mistakes or shortcomings. I am beginning to love myself enough to say: “No, this is my fault and I am the problem but you know what? I am also the freakin’ solution, son!” That is what real successful people do. Whenever you come up short, there is a time to be upset but, you have to dust the crap off and keep moving forward. J. Michael Straczynski is a reminder of that.

This book really hit close to home for me because, like J. Michael Straczynski, I wanted to be like Superman. As a kid, I emulated Clark Kent by wearing toy red glasses. I pretended to fly and run around the house with a dish rag for a cape. And Superman became one of the reasons why I wanted to become a writer and tell stories.

I recommend that you read this book. It is not just an autobiography of a writer who broke out of the Phantom Zone of adversity and poverty. It is an autobiography about a man who became Superman.

My First Time Back In Journalism: A Journey Towards Getting Back on Track

It has been four years since I wrote an article for a publication but, as of September of this year, I finally decided to return to my long-lost love: journalism.

When I attended college a decade ago, I decided to pursue journalism and writing. I’ll admit, it was Clark Kent who inspired me to become a journalist and a steward of the truth. I believed in the freedom of the press and its power to hold governments and others accountable for their actions. I was writing for the school newspaper and getting constant feedback from peers. However, when 2008 came, the economy took a dump and that was when things started to change.

After graduating in June 2011, I could not land a journalism job.  I tried to knock on doors to get employment at the local newspaper near my university. Nothing happened.

Like so many millennials, I had to settle for a job that was unrelated to what I studied for. I will admit that back then, I should have thought outside the box and started a blog or kept in touch with my professors and friends from my creative writing classes. But I was too caught up with the crap economy that I ended up taking a job as an substitute instructional assistant for a school district.

It was here when my love for journalism, or writing in general, began to fade. I accepted the jaded fact that I wasn’t going to become a journalist or write ever again due to the dwindling opportunities.  The jadedness (obviously, not a real word) got more worse when someone who I considered close told me that I would suffer if I decided to pursue journalism further. I gave up.

However, there was a little sliver of my inner writer left inside of me.

That small part of me still championed writing clear, crisp, and shorted sentences. That part of me still motivated me to consult Strunk and White’s Elements of Style whenever I was on the verge of writing a long and wordy sentence like this: I was always in a bind, never thinking before doing something that could possibly be beneficial to one person yet potentially detrimental to my state of being. See what I did there? Yeah, I guess I tried to hard. Anyway, that part of me still loved reading books and the news. As I write this, I believe that my inner writer had to be dormant for a while. And with that, I had the opportunity explore other avenues.

For awhile, I tried to medical field but long story short, I flunked a community college physics class. This was not my first go at the medical field. During my first year in college, I tried so damn hard to pass chemistry but I got a “F” for my efforts. As for that position as an instructional assistant? I decided to quit since it was not for me and moved back home to my family to continue my journey. Next, I tried to go for computer programming; it got boring staring at a computer screen and putting my fingers through hell trying to compose code when I should have been composing an article. However, I did some short internship stints at two local community newspapers where my inner writer was reignited but burned out after they ended. Then I gave accounting a shot and thought that I would become a CPA. I confess that I failed my first accounting class but unlike my failed medical endeavor or my quest to become a journalist, I was not going to give up. I took the class again and passed and then passed the second class as well. I felt like I was on a roll and even got a job as an accounting clerk at a local state office but, a year after getting that job, I was let go.

After three months of questioning why I got let go from my job, some people in my family reminded me of what my true purpose was. When my older brother came by to visit me and my family, we just started talking about the news again. My interest slowly evoked. But I had to ask myself: Is this what I really wanted to do?

That was when I decided to go to a journalism networking event and after that event, I am happy to say that I am once again, back to doing journalism. Right now, I am a freelance writing and I am doing my first assignment in four years. I know in my heart that this is something I want to do and no matter what anyone says, I know that I will do it.

The current assignment is a fun one and it involves a lot of investigation and research. I am not going to go through too much detail about it but let’s just say that I am looking forward to talking to people from different walks of life. I am looking forward to telling their stories and sharing them with the audience like I did back in my creative writing classes in college.

My internships back in Los Angeles were also helpful in giving me the experience I needed to continue pursuing journalism; this was something I should have done as soon as my internship stints ended. This reminded me of what Walter Mosley, the author of the book Devil in the Blue Dress, said: “If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day. The consistency, the monotomy, the certainty, all vagaries and passions are covered by this daily reoccurrence.”

I have to water the plant of writing everyday or it would whither and die. I have to be committed and I have to stay committed. I have to eat, breath, and sleep writing.

A non-fiction creative writing profossor ingrained this into my head when he wrote candidly about my writing performance. I would forever value his advice because it was true.

As I start on my first assignment in four years, I am going to expect a lot of challenges. I am going to see some victories and some losses. There will be no gains without any pains. I know that I can succeed and I will.

I want everyone reading this to realize that there is no shame in following your goals. Whether it is in a good or bad economy, whether a close friend, loved one, or whoever encourages you or discourages you, or…whatever. You are in control of your future. Not the outside influences. What matters is that a bad economy, fears, someone, or whatever someone says cannot dictate how we live our dreams and how we pursue them.

Clark Kent the journalist and the superhero known as Superman can attest to that.

 

 

 

 

The Story of How I Chose to Become A Writer

When I was little, I always enjoyed writing. I can remember creating a newspaper that centered around the crayfishes in my fourth-grade classroom. Obviously, there was only one paper in syndication because only I wrote it and only I read it. A couple years later, my love for essay writing is developed well into the closing days of my eighth grade year in middle school. However, this craze was later suppressed due my focus on pursuing the sciences in high school and aspiring (not really because I only wanted to to do it for the money) to work in the medical field. This suppression would only last for almost my entire high school career until I became fixated on improving on my writing in my 12th-grade AP British literature class. It was there that my love of writing underwent a resurgence. My love of writing even became more obvious when I took an college English course at University and wrote several essays including one related to Kafka’s work the Metamorphosis (A book I highly recommend to anyone). And it was the year after that I decided to pursue writing.

Now many people have supported me on my mission to become a writer while I have also had my share of detractors or doubters. But I guess that is the beauty of pursuing your dreams isn’t it?

In his book, “No Is a Four Letter Word,” pro-wrestler Chris Jericho narrates that as a kid growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada, he wanted to be a pro-wrestler and a rock star. Like anyone else pursuing a goal, he had his supporters and he had his detractors. And for this detractors, he had this brilliant quote that I am now trying to live by:

“You see, I NEVER thought I was too small or not talented enough to do what I wanted to do, and I didn’t appreciate anybody who felt differently. The way I saw it, you were either with me or against me in my quest for fire, and if you were against me, well, you were a muttonhead and I really didn’t have any use for you anyway.”

-Chris Jericho

Jericho mentions that many people doubted that he would be successful as a pro-wrestler due to his short height and average stature. However, about two decades later, the man becomes the first ever undisputed WWE World Heavyweight champion and from there on, has a stellar career in pro-wrestling. In addition, he also cultivated a stellar career as a rock n’ roll musician. How many people could say that? Apparently, Chris Jericho can and it was because he believed in himself. The dude followed his goals.

I feel that is where I am at in the beginning of the third decade in my life. My twenties were a decade of exploring the different avenues I could go into but would very likely have some to no success. Although deep down, I knew that I wanted to be a writer, I have tried my hand at several careers at the urging of others.

Medical field? As I have mentioned before, I have heard that the money was good but, due to my somewhat lack of patience…the poor patient would have a sense of bad bedside manner and report me to the medical board. Goodbye medical license; it was nice knowing ya. School teacher? Going back to the lack of patience…the kids in my class would be so thrilled to have a substitute teacher. I like kids but…not in the classroom.  Accountancy? Well…I’m okay with crunching some numbers but who wants to be counting money all day? Besides, I did have a civil service finance job that only lasted a year when I thought it could have lasted me more than two. Yeaaaaaah. Let’s just leave it at that, shall we? Computer program? Boring. Though coding seems to be integrating in most fields. So, I guess it could be useful. But as a career? I couldn’t handle spending hours on end staring at a computer screen doing nothing but endlessly putting in code after code. ‘(No shade on computer programmers of course.)

I want to go into writing because I feel that it is what I can do. It is a gift. It is a hobby. It is a way of escape. It is my superpower.

After going through several careers (or learning about them) during my twenties, I ultimately decided to settle on being a writer. If I did not have a desire for those things  have mentioned then, there was no way I was going to have a desire for those things now.

Now, if you were to ask me the billion dollar question , “why become a writer?” I would tell you: “that’s a good question…”

Well along with the things I have mentioned in the first paragraph, I was inspired to become a writer after watching the Christopher Reeve Superman movies as a kid. Sure I wanted to be Superman but, I also wanted to be Clark Kent. As a kid, I desired a pair of glasses and wore some toy red rimmed glasses emulating the mild mannered reporter. I pictured having my name on a byline and in the second year at college, it eventually it happened at my college newspaper. It was a huge accomplishment. However, I had hit some rough patches during the year 2008 which I would prefer not to mention. All I can say is that it affected my aspirations as a writer and that was when more detractors came. As I heard their voices, the seeds of doubt grew into my nogin and that was when I began to go aimlessly from career to career after college graduation. It wasn’t until post civil service finance job that I really did want to pursue writing. Why else was I not thriving in those other careers?

I need to believe in myself that I can pursue this ancient yet awesome and adventurous field. I may not be in the ranks of Hunter S. Thompson, Mark Twain, Erest Hemingway, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin or F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I know that if I at least dream about my goals as a writer and pursuing them, I know that I will succeed. And I know that I can go to sleep knowing that I made the decision to pursue my dream as a writer.