Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Missed Opportunity In Writing

Written by request for Sage over at Musings about a comment I left on one of his blog posts.

If I had one career I wish I was good at, I would choose to be a writer. Growing up without a television, I have spent more of my life reading than probably an average 100 people you can find on the street. I literally read an entire library growing up and got special permission to visit a much larger library a county over. To this day, I still read more than the average person. But while reading these books, I can't help but want to write one of my own someday. I actually have a couple planned out in my head and one with notes enough to fill a notebook but whenever I have sat down to write it, my mind turns to lead. The words I write seem childish, clunky, unwieldy. I can get maybe a paragraph down before I give up and put the project aside to gather electronic dust.

This isn't always the case though. Occasionally the words come and I can get them on paper. One such case was when I was in high school and taking a writing class. We were tasked with writing a comedic piece on a subject of our choosing and at the time. I don't remember what I wrote but it was enough that my English teacher sent it into some sort of statewide contest and my essay along with a handful of others were selected to go spend a day at a college to learn more about the craft of writing.

It has been so long ago that my mind is unsure of many of the details of the day but a few stick with me. We were ushered into a room where we listened to several people speak during the morning and then in the afternoon, we were allowed to select from several options of what we wanted to do. I remember that because of the picking order, I didn't get to select the option that I wanted because it was already full. Instead I was forced to go listen to another person speak about writing and as it turned out, I was the only one signed up so essentially it was just me and the speaker in a small room for a half hour.

When I walked into the room, a man with flowing long hair and feminine features was sitting at the other end and his looks surprised me. It was the mid 80's when schools were full of buzz cuts and flat tops and here was a man with hair past his shoulders in a long ponytail. I introduced myself and he did the same. He was an author that had just published a well reviewed book entitled Lake Wobegon Days. If that doesn't give it away, it was none other than Garrison Keillor. At the time I didn't know him from Adam and his stature within the writing community met nothing to me. Perhaps that is why not a shred of memory of what we talked about for the next half hour remain with me.

Years later and a great admirer of Garrison Keillor, I would pay a heavy price to get a do over with him and spend a half hour talking about writing. Perhaps I would be able learn something about writing that would allow me to write that book that I've always wanted to write. Among meeting famous people, my meeting of him ranks right up there with almost getting run over by Richard Petty (and later that day Dale Earnhardt's body), chatting with John Prine backstage after a concert or sitting in a limo with Charlton Heston. But those are stories perhaps for another day.


sage said...

I can still remember reading "Lake Wobegon Days." Although I like some of his writings better than others, that one will always be a favorite and I laughed a lot. Thanks for sharing your memories (and it sounds like you have a few other good ones to share).

Ed said...

Sage - I'm embarrassed almost to mention this but I have never read Lake Wobegon Days. By the time it crossed my radar as a book I might want to read, I had strayed into nonfiction reading. If I stray back to the dark side of reading, I'll have to make sure to read it.

warren said...

I did NaNoWriMo one time and that was a cool exercise but I also get stuck thinking about stuff I would really like to dialogues and words just seem clunky. I have no need to write like the "classics" but I don't want to write crap either...maybe we are too hard on ourselves?

edifice rex said...

Garrison Keillor with long hair??!!! That's a cool story for sure.
I've never read Lake Wobegon Days either but am a big fan of his radio show.

ErinFromIowa said...

Clunk! That was me falling off my chair. Oh! I am just green with envy! Ed! Ed! Ed! You've been holding out on us. ;)

ErinFromIowa said...

I enjoy reading and listening to his books.

Ed said...

Warren - It certainly was a great exercise and I suppose had I kept doing something like that, I would be a better writer. Practice makes better anyway.

Edifice Rex - A long ponytail. I like his show as well and even walked by his house once while in St. Paul. Beautiful location.

Erin - Sorry, I didn't mean to hold out on everyone. Perhaps I should see a hypnotist to discover more forgotten memories.

Bone said...

Wow. That did not end how I was expecting! I was imagining a long, awkward session with some unknown possibly creepy author.

Good story. And I was listening to John Prine earlier this morning.

I vote you write the Richard Petty story next.

ErinFromIowa said...

That in itself would be blog fodder!