Last Mother’s Day, I posted a tribute to my mother and the wonderful legacy of parenting she left me. I am reminded of those traits in observing my day-to-day interactions with Ivy the Wonder Cat and thinking to myself, “Wow! That was just like Mom!”
When it comes to my father, I find that his influences are far more prevalent in my day-to-day interactions at the office and, believe it or not, in my writing.
As I was growing up, getting good grades was the absolute top priority for me in my Dad’s world. In particular, it was all about the math. Given his brilliant mind when it came to numbers, in his eyes, the road to success was paved with good grades in all of the math disciplines: calculus, algebra, trigonometry, functions and relations, and if possible, accounting and this new thing called computer science.
The way he described it to me, with good grades in math, he thought this would open doors to colleges and universities, leading to a good job and then a self-sustaining adulthood. I knew that philosophically, there was validity to his advice.
Sadly, it took until my last year of university for me to recognize and fully appreciate the deeper connections made through the learning process. Math was not just about performing math functions, but it served as a way of cross-training young minds, so to speak, stretching them in every direction possible in preparation for the challenges of adulthood.
Mathematics were key to understanding money, finances, investments and doing taxes. Math also came in handy for taking measurements for home renovations as well as for splitting recipes in half. Beyond those obvious linkages, math also stood the test of time in teaching me the life skills of logic, critical thought and analysis, essential to organize facts and to solve real-life problems, something I use every day at work. Thanks Dad!
An epiphany followed in discovering what I knew intuitively: strong writing skills also depend on logic for a natural flow of ideas. Where plot structure is involved, a writer cannot just pitch random thoughts and facts at the reader in any order. Good storytelling depends on a logical flow of character and plot development to lead the reader down a linear path, even if it is a tale that takes detours.
I would even extend that idea in suggesting that critical thought is helpful in discerning what elements are essential to a story and which ones are superfluous and could be directed toward the shredder.
I think one of the best examples would be a murder mystery. The story will not work unless the writer drops the right clues at the right time and place for the reader, culminating into a logical, satisfying “big reveal” toward the end.
I recently realized this fact as well in studying elements of comedy writing. An important device in comedy is incongruity. To tell a joke effectively, the writer walks the reader down a logical path and then surprises the reader with an illogical twist at the end. However, to accomplish this and to be successful, the story leading up to the incongruous element needs to be crisp, well laid out and flawlessly logical.
I would like to think that through my blog, readers keep coming back because my writing is easy to follow, engaging, fun, and occasionally tickles the funny bone… thanks to the lessons learned in math. However, I don’t think that this is exactly what my dad had in mind when he encouraged me to focus on my math lessons. If he were still alive today, I wonder what he would think.
But just the same, his words of inspiration are with me whenever I hit the “publish” button on each new post where the elements came together seamlessly and logically. To me, a crisp, sharp story is not just a by-product of creativity but also the result of a logical thought process, of problem solving, reasoning and methodical organization of thoughts… just like Dad would have wanted.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,