It’s interesting to think back to what I used to do. I’ve been retired for about twelve years, but sometimes, it seems much longer — or just yesterday.
What do you do for a living? If you are retired, what did you do before you retired?
I was a writer. I think — despite taking a variety of “majors” in college, I always knew that was what I was going to do. I started writing as soon as I could read whole sentences and hold a pencil in my hand. I was lucky I had a few teachers in elementary school who encouraged me.
For a long time, I imagined I was going to write best-selling novels. I wrote a lot of short stories when I was very young, then again as a teenage. College changed my direction. In the process of studying, I wrote papers. I had a mentor and teacher who believed in serious papers. Every other professor wanted a few pages. He demanded no fewer than 20 pages for a 3-credit course. For his 4-credit courses, he expected 40-pages. Worse, he really read every paper and commented.
He was not equally demanding for every student. The more promise he felt you had, the harder he made your work. I think he was tough on me because I could write. I often skirted the “guts” of the subject by writing well enough to (hopefully) distract the reader from the minor detail that I hadn’t actually read the books or done the research. He never let me get away with it. I never entirely recovered from getting an A+/D on a 20-page mid-semester paper. The A+ was for writing skill. The D was because I hadn’t really addressed the subject — or read the books.
To be fair, they were the most boring books I’ve ever had to read. They could have been sold as sleeping aids to serious insomniacs. That argument bore no weight in Dr. Wekerle’s (Weh-ker-lee) class. You had to read the books, boring or not. The entire book. Not just the first couple of chapters and the flyleaf.
He also, eventually — because he was my teacher for a more than 20 credits — taught me to write so anyone reading would it would “get it.” I had a tendency to jump from point A to G to R and end with Z. I could see the connection, but I didn’t explain it. It wasn’t in the paper.
I made me go back and write it. All of it. Even if it seemed obvious to me, he pointed out what was obvious to me was note necessarily obvious to anyone else. I got this same criticism from an editor in Israel. Before he made Aliyah, he’d been an editor at Viking Press and damn, he was a great editor. He too never let me get away with anything and I remember pleading with him to not make me add that 20 page explanation of the mathematics because it was hard work. Sigh. I did it anyway.
At one of my last jobs before I became unable to continue working, my boss had a Ph.D. from M.I.T. in Advanced Mathematics. I was a puny B.A. in Speech and Drama, but he had to get me to slow down when I was explaining something because I leapt from point to point assuming that other people could follow me. He couldn’t. I realized if he couldn’t follow me, probably no one could.
This is why I have to edit my writing as much as I do. Aside from the typos, it’s the jumps. When I have an idea for a story, I see the beginning and I see the end. I have to discipline myself to make sure that whatever I write, short or long, it contains all the points so the beginning and end are coherent. I’m much worse when I talk than when I write. Years of professional technical, news, and information writing have taught me to build a document, but when I talk, the brain pops all over the place.
As I’ve gotten older, I am even more apt to bounce off one idea to another idea that’s linked inside my brain, but not necessarily in anyone else’s. I have a couple of friends who can follow me, maybe because they’ve known me for so long. Garry can follow me — if he can hear me — and so can Owen. My mother could follow me and oh how I miss her sometimes. She understood things about me I didn’t know anyone suspected. She “got me” in a way that’s is rare between mother and daughter.
Blogging suits me. One of the best parts of blogging is that no one is counting the words or will send the manuscript back. I don’t write professionally. Supposedly, this is fun. It hasn’t been as much fun in recent years, but I live in hopes that the fun will return.
And, best of all, I get to include photographs!