Friday

Are You Ready to Tell Your Story? No one else can.


Do you have a story idea percolating just below the surface of your everyday routine? Is there an idea that has been tumbling around in your head for a while? There are some steps you can take to get your writing dream off the ground.
First, be the best writer you can be. Writing is a craft. If you practice you will develop expertise, technique and skill. Think about it as you would think about learning to play the piano. You wouldn’t expect to play a Bach concerto after a week of lessons. The good news is with writing, you don’t have to start at the beginning. You’ve been writing your whole life. You just need to bring your game up a few notches.
Second, be a student of writing. Take the subject on with gusto. If a classroom environment is the best for you, look at the catalog of your local community college. Chances are you’ll find a class that’s right for you at a reasonable price. If you don’t have time for a class or you enjoy a more self-directed approach, there are a lot of good books on writing you can use to sharpen your skills. Many great writers have been generous with their advice to developing scribes.  We’ll talk about the best books on writing in a future post.
Third, be a professional. Even if you don’t plan to quit your job to write, you’ll benefit from treating your writing as a professional does. What does that mean to you? If you wanted to turn those piano lessons into a concert career, what would it take? You know the answer. You’d have to practice, practice, and then practice. You’ll be amazed at how comfortable you’ll become with the English language. The more you write, the more that part of your brain will develop, until you’ll feel confident of your ability to put your ideas down on paper in an accurate and engaging way. By the way, many famous writers had day jobs, so don’t let the need to make a living stop you. Robert Frost was a newspaper boy and worked in a light-bulb factory. Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote Slaughterhouse-Five, was the manager of a car dealership, and Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, worked as a messenger boy and file clerk.
 So whether you’ve always wanted to be a writer or you’ve caught the bug as an adult, there is a process you can follow to arrive at your destination. You might already know what you’ll write about or maybe you know how much you want to write but wonder where you can find stories and characters. We’ll kick around some ideas in another post.
 

Thursday

The Town Green


 
It doesn’t matter where you grew up. It could have been the plains of Kansas, or the dusty fields of Texas, or the corner of New England I come from. For the rest of your life, no matter where you go, that place is still home.  Even if you haven’t lived there in many years, a song, a taste or a passing thought can bring you right back there in an instant.

For me, the memory came back recently as I drove passed a town green. If the place you grew up had one, you know what I mean.  That two block parcel of grass and trees crisscrossed by concrete walkways was literally the center of town. Every year the old growth maples and oaks signaled spring’s arrival, first with small, tentative buds, then tender bright green leaves. Finally, all the glory of summer days flourished in the deepest shades of green and shadow.
Of course, fall was a spectacle. The cooling air and shortening days gave the Green a stunning bonnet.  The colors deepened and faded, and finally the leaves fell. And there were amazing piles of leaves! You could get lost in them. Until you were eight or nine, they were taller than you were.

Every winter, as soon as it was cold enough, the Parks Department would build two-foot high berms of sand around each section of grass. The Fire Department drove two blocks from the main station with a pumper truck to fill the basins with water. Most years it took at least over night for each level to freeze, and there was no skating until three levels had frozen. Sometimes the wait seemed like forever.
On Saturday mornings we ran out right after breakfast and we were skating by 9:00. At lunchtime we hurried home, ate and ran back to skate until the sun started to set.  I can remember walking home after a day of skating on the Green feeling as tired as I’ve ever felt in my life. It was wonderful. Some days we hurried home after school, changed and grabbed our skates.  That only gave us an hour or so to skate before dinner, but it was worth it.




On my first weekend home from college, there was a rally on the green before a football game at the high school. I remember standing in the noise and activity and being glad to be there. The energy of the gathering, the smell of earth and fallen leaves, and the crisp fall night was an intoxicating mix. I knew this was something I would want to store away for future reference. I told myself to remember it. How amazing is it that I did?
What do you remember most about your hometown? It’s always good to visit, even if it’s an armchair trip.