I tend to think that the road of life I travelled was indeed meant to be uniquely mine, with all the potholes, hitch hikers, detours, storms and speed bumps I experienced along the way, as well as those stretches of smooth, dry pavement and clear weather conditions.
But it does not stop me from sometimes wondering if I had started writing earlier, with a greater sense of commitment to my craft, what kind of writer would I have become? Would I have been any good?
When I look back on childhood, I shake my head at my attitude toward teachers who forced us to write drafts of our compositions. I remember thinking that drafts were a huge waste of time because I wrote what I meant and I got it right the first time. Oh my, how times have changed!
When I read my journals from the early days (before I was journaling with a purpose), I see the seeds of creativity and the fire within, already yearning to tell stories. The stories in question may have been a little shallow, but a writer needs to start somewhere.
When I look back at some of the work I posted on my former web site “The Spin on Life at 33 1/3” (before blogs became popular), I do see the building blocks of who I am as a writer today. I surprise myself when I am able to crack a smile at stories I wrote almost two decades ago. And I also see how far I have come as a writer and how my style and execution have evolved and refined.
Over the course of my professional career, I have written, rewritten and edited thousands of pages of communication material under the guidance of mentors for whom I was always in admiration of their corporate writing style. Did that help me become the writer I am today? Of course it did!
I had to quickly learn how to disconnect my ego from any work I produced, because at the end of the day, it wasn’t my signature at the bottom, it was someone higher up the ladder than me. The finished work had to be what they wanted to say, in their voice, not mine.
I am so grateful for that opportunity as it helped me become a bit of a chameleon, learning to write for executives who preferred detail-oriented memoranda with the same flair as those whose style was more about getting straight to the point and wrapping it up quickly.
Disconnection from ego in my written work also made me much more objective as an editor, and enhanced my ability to change hats quite seamlessly from writer to editor. The proof is that I can ruthlessly edit my own work without offending myself!
With the years, came many wonderful life experiences which stretched my imagination and inspired me. With more points of reference in my back pocket, I am looking forward to seeing how I can translate these skills and ideas to works that might inspire others to imagine or to create.
At this stage of life, I hold significantly more respect for the craft and the process surrounding the written word. Some conventions are meant to be followed while others can be gently broken when the writer knows when it is appropriate to do so and has the confidence to do it successfully. In storytelling, one cannot underestimate the value of careful word choice and of every comma. A writer needs to understand the fundamental difference between “pretty smelly things” and “pretty, smelly things”.
A half century of experience and a heightened degree of self-awareness probably lends itself to more depth and breadth in storytelling as I grow to understand my own curiosity and what I would like to hear when another raconteur is at work.
Whether I “write what I know” or challenge myself to go to subjects that require research, I also have a greater understanding of the writer’s responsibility to the audience. The writer wants to invite the reader along for the ride and to keep them engaged throughout until the last plot twist is revealed. The challenge is to do so with the same sensitivity, diplomacy, grace, style and class as I would if I was talking to a beloved relative or a close friend.
In reality, I think that if I had started earlier, I would have been a much different writer. I would have been young and ambitious, with a mountain of fresh ideas. But I also fear that insecurity and cockiness would have been far more prevalent and could have paved a path to a much different voice.
But would that path (and the potholes, hitch hikers, detours, storms and speed bumps I experienced along the way) have landed me in a fairly similar spot at this stage in life? Nature versus nurture in writing? We’ll never really know.
Even though I am often concerned about the late start in my creative writing career and the shorter span I have to download the stories floating around in my head, I have to cut myself some slack. For the life and work experience I gained along the way, I believe that my writing reflexes are much sharper which should enable me to commit those ideas to paper much more efficiently. If I can do that, I am hoping that the years ahead will hold fewer periods of writers block and longer stretches of quality writing.
If destiny offered me this gift and this trajectory of preparation, I have to have faith that I will have the opportunity to put it to good use for you, the readers, when my second career as a writer is in full swing.
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Have a great day,
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