Sunday, April 23, 2023

Writing therapy

 I suppose I should thank my mother for coming to love writing.  As little ones she read us Golden Books regularly and when we learned to ride bikes encouraged us to get library cards.  She prized her mornings with a cup of hot tea, a slice of Roman Meal cracked wheat, and the new copy of Reader’s Digest.  The woman loved language and her kids knew it.  Me?  Some, I guess, but I had more fun throwing baseballs.  

In high school when career consideration came into vogue, after I dismissed a call to the seminary, I figured becoming an engineer was my best option.  There were lots of GM plants in my home town and after all, wasn’t that what all the guys were going to do?  

But sometime senior year my head and heart turned.  As much as I hated to admit a lack of personal gifts, I was lousy at math.  Flat out.  Still am.  

In English class, however, I was gobsmacked by two short stories I have credited often for my getting into teaching:  Katherine Anne Porter’s “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” and Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.”  For the first time I thought I could actually feel what the characters were going through.  Maybe it was just compassion, but engaging deeply in those human stories left a mark on me.

And then, of course, was Mr. Hemmert, my English teacher both sophomore and senior years.  One of my first male teachers, too, having come from a Catholic elementary where most every person of authority wore a habit.  The man made an impression on me.  Plus, he was a poet and the baseball coach.  By graduation I was beginning to think teaching English might be a cool thing to do for a career. 

As that junior high English teacher that I morphed into, I ran my kids through the rigors of the Five Sentence Creative Outline like I had been.  Basic organization is so important for writers, and this one page exercise was just big enough for most students to grok from start to finish without a lot of writing angst.  By the time I taught high school, my young ‘uns were writing journal entries twice a week, even in my World History class.  

Somewhere amidst all that language immersion I realized I pretty much liked to write.  In fact, as I’ve heard the same from other writers of late, I can’t really stop.  Some think of writing as an affliction, and maybe it is.  

For me, though, it seems writing starts soon after some engaging concept dawns on me. Often these days writing takes form of an email, but I usually have a seasonal journal going where I ponder Life as a septuagenarian. And, of course, there’s the poetry.  The other day I tallied up my portfolio to find I had over 600 original pieces.  

Daughter Jennifer has confided that she wants my poetry when my time on this plane of existence is over.  I appreciate that.  She’ll get journals and travel diaries, too, the whole collection, the earliest in my handwritten scrawl.  

And as usual, I wonder what all of that language is worth. I will not be the one to judge.  I trust there’s a great grandchild to come one day who might want to know a bit more about that old guy she knew as a baby but now only sees in pictures.  

I trust in the process of digging through great grandpa’s canon of writing, she’ll get a taste of who the old man was and what he valued. I hope some of that will encourage her to tell her own story.  It’s good therapy.

Today’s elder idea:  From Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way

If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are formed, opening to your creativity changes you from something bobbing in that sea to a more fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem.

No comments:

Post a Comment