Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself. --- Mahatma Gandhi |
Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing. -- William Shakespeare
I was recently invited to speak at a writer’s workshop called, “Create Your Own Story” held at Defiance (Ohio) College, and sponsored by the Defiance Public Library System. The workshop celebrates National Library Week; the idea being to inspire and educate local citizens on how to see their own literary dreams come true.
Other speakers will speak about finding creativity in the writing process, and different publishing options. Me? Nothing was suggested, so I thought maybe I’d talk about, “Why write in the first place?” Hmmm, let’s see, why does one write? To show off one’s ability to rant and turn a phrase? To deliver a message? To teach? To impress? To fill time? What??? I puzzled about it for a bit because my reason seems too simplistic. You see for me writing is pure, unadulterated joy! That includes all forms of writing: fiction, nonfiction, screen plays, technical papers, magazine articles, memoranda, reports, letters, emails…the whole schmear. I love it! But then again I’m a bit of a goofball.
It all started when I was a first grader in Miss Slosser’s class at Slocum School. We went to the library on a field trip, and Miss Slosser checked out a book to read to us, serial fashion, over the next three weeks. I was fascinated. The story featuring Jimmy Microbe was full of adventure, suspense, and had a plot twist rare in children’s literature. Jimmy’s best buddy was Pneumonia who turned out to be a bad guy. I was hooked on reading from then on, but mostly I wanted to write and tell my own stories.
I started in grade school by telling my brothers nightly stories about a local grocer and his family, a crew we (as kids) found to be comical. We’d be under the covers and trying to be quiet so our parents wouldn’t know we weren’t asleep. More often than not our giggling would give us away causing Mom or Dad to come in and threaten us with punishment. The cause of the mirth was typical kid humor; for instance, the grocer’s Oldsmobile was powered by farts, a tail pipe connected to a hole in the driver’s seat. (I was ahead of the “green movement”, and had the first idea for an automobile fueled by natural gas!)
In fifth and sixth grade I started drawing serial comic strips featuring myself and three friends. Again, everyone got a kick out of my efforts. But the teachers who were the butt of my juvenile humor? Not so much.
High school offered me a new literary opportunity in that we were required to write themes and essays. Local service organizations even held annual contests, but the subjects (to me) were boring and too restrictive for my creative mind; that is, they had to follow certain guidelines, to wit: What Good Citizenship Means to Me; How to Serve Your Community; Service and You, etc… (yawn) Ho-hum… Needless to say, my writing was too far outside the box; I did not win a single contest. Nevertheless I loved the drill. Writing, no matter what the subject, was fun! I then turned to writing humorous poems about my classmates, which continued through senior year.
I entered undergraduate school majoring in engineering, which may sound odd for a fellow whose favorite subjects were English composition and history. But my science and math grades were adequate (That’s right, I had delusions of adequacy…or mediocrity) and the space race was on so entering engineering school seemed as good as anything. The trouble was that most of my fellow engineering students were brilliant in science and higher forms of math. I had to struggle and work harder than most; however, there was a saving grace: English. I padded my GPA with those courses, and it didn’t hurt that my fellow students thought subjects outside of their majors were a waste of time. The competition for grades in English wasn’t that stiff.
I had also matured enough to learn a lesson; a lesson I missed during high school essay contests. I learned to write for a specific audience: the professors. I pimped myself out for grades. I also knew from that experience I could compete rather well in the workplace because I had something many of my fellow graduates did not: an extraordinary ability to communicate. See, we engineers often focus on the details and miss the big picture. For instance:
There were three men, each protesting his innocence, facing execution by guillotine: a doctor, a lawyer, and an engineer. The doctor was the first to face the blade, but when the executioner pulled the lever the blade started to descend then suddenly stopped.
“You are obviously an innocent man,” said the executioner, “go with God.” The man was released.
The lawyer was then led to the gallows and positioned. The same thing happened; the blade didn’t fall.
“Go with God,” said the executioner, “you are innocent.” The lawyer was released.
As the engineer was led to the guillotine he called the executioner over, and pointed to something at the top of the apparatus and said, “I think I see your problem…”
Sure enough, in the world-of-work my ability to write reports and memoranda helped kick me up the organizational chart, but my objective was to find joy with what I liked most—writing! The fact that my career advanced was a byproduct, not the main goal. I also found an outlet by writing and presenting technical papers for professional organizations, and providing articles to industrial magazines. It wasn’t the kind of writing I preferred, but still I enjoyed it immensely.
Undoubtedly I’ll be asked to provide advice to those attending the workshop (if you can imagine anyone wanting advice from the likes of me). Well, here goes: 1. Get plenty of life experience; travel; meet all types of people; get outside your comfort zone. 2. Listen first, talk second. 3. Be hyperaware of everything around you; soak it up like a sponge. 4. Write with raw emotion; feel what you write. 5. “Mind dump”; get what you feel down first without judging sentence structure or worrying about syntax; editing comes later 6. Stamina; approach writing like it’s your career; write everyday.
My chosen career path provided many life experiences and gave me the opportunity to write about my adventures, and provided a background for fiction as well. It’s like I’m under the covers with my brothers again giggling out whatever my imagination conjures up. What a hoot! I’m like a little bird with a big song!
Copyright 2011 by Gene Myers
Author of AFTER HOURS (2009), Strategic Publishing Group, New York, NY.
Author of SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE (2010), PublishAmerica, Fredericksburg, MD
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