Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Can Anyone Write?

Matt Kirby had a friend ask him recently his opinion about being born to write. The friend, it appears, took the position that writers are born to write and that they know it early-on, and, if they take it up, they are good at it, but people who are not born to write shouldn't take it up, especially later in life. Something like that, anyway.

On his blog, Matt embedded a picture of what looked like a gigantic human skeleton being worked on by a couple of archaeologists who appeared to be about one-third the size of the skeleton's head. Matt observed that the compelling picture required anyone looking at it to try and figure out what was happening with it. He suggested that any onlooker would create his or her own internal story about the picture. He went on to say that every person tries to make sense of their experience in life and, in doing so, is a writer or a storyteller. However, in one of the comments to his blog entry, he suggested that there are people who can write and those who can't. And it all boiled down to the will of the person who wants to write.

I agree with Matt. We can all write; it is a matter of having the will to do so.

Like almost everyone, I suppose growing up I thought I could write reasonably well, and if need be, I could produce novels on par with most other people out there producing novels, for example, John Grisham. I always thought I could produce something on par with what John Grisham writes, because reading Grisham's novels is so effortless and, therefore, it seemed like his type of writing must be somewhat effortless, too. All it would take for me to do it was effort. I have learned what an understatement that is. If you don't take up writing early-on in your lifetime you give up opportunities for experience and improvement.

In high school and college, I received kudos from some of my English teachers, especially in creative writing. So I always believed from an early age that I had a propensity for words and wordplay. And, to some degree, for storytelling. However, I didn't take up the practice of writing or do anything substantial with the innate ability that I had demonstrated to the apparent delight of a couple of teachers. I never was much of a diarist, and I never really routinely kept any sort of journal, or the like. There were periods of time when I tried, and, if you look on my computer, you'll find scattered attempts at keeping a journal, but it was nothing ever consistent.

What finally got me going was an event that happened in the life of another individual I knew. This particular individual worked in an electronics store that specialized in photography. I knew him from my college fraternity. Additionally, he ended up marrying my wife's cousin. We had visited him and his wife over the years when they invited us to come and look at their latest slides and photographs of important events in their lives, primarily their vacations. They had had a couple of kids the last time we had visited them, and they had another one, as I recall, sometime after that. So they had three kids.

Invariably, as my wife and I shopped for Christmas, we would stop by the electronics store to see this fellow, to talk to him, and to figure out if we want to buy anything from the store. Mostly though, we were stopping by just to say hi and to catch up on the news of him and his family. One Christmas, this guy told us that his wife, my wife's cousin, was leaving him for a polygamist, one he thought was not only a polygamist but was also running a scam. It was just so inconceivable that his wife would leave him. It caused me mental duress and caused me to begin writing the story that has become a novel, Time for All Eternity.

I was an old man by the time I started writing the novel. I am still older man now. I missed a good forty or fifty years of experience by not writing earlier. But the thing that got me going was something compelling, like that picture on Matt's blog of a gigantic skeleton, real or imagined. Something that compels and challenges your mind and imagination.

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