It’s a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, blue sky and fluffy clouds reflecting off the lake, comfortable in a T-shirt and shorts four days before Thanksgiving because it’s Florida and we don’t apologize for it.
I’m staring at a computer screen. Again.
Sunday writing is the worst writing. My brain just spent the last two days NOT thinking of writing, and now suddenly, without warning, it’s time to crank up the writing.
Look. This is a skill. An art. It takes … it takes … it takes … oh, excuse me, I walked away for a minute. Was I saying something? Oh yeah, it takes dedication, poise and determination. And focus, lots of focus.
Writing is the most frustrating and rewarding thing I do. Sometimes, I write and the conclusion comes before I know it. Other days I pray for some logic and a clear mind.
(People ask, “What’s your favorite part about writing?” My answer: “The ‘send’ button.”)
This is why I need to have Monday’s blog idea in mind before signing off Thursday night. Writing is difficult.
So why do I do it?
Hard to pinpoint exactly how this happened. I grew up a so-so school pupil in the Detroit suburbs and actually set sights on a career as a psychologist. From watching the “Bob Newhart Show,” I knew that psychologists talked with people about their problems and lived lavishly because of it.
That was the plan right up into 12th grade. Then, wouldn’t you know it, a couple of lame ol’ teachers came along and gave me direction.
First, Mr. McBroom got me in front of people telling jokes. Nothing is more nerve-wracking than public speaking but boy, if you can lick that, everything else comes easy. Public speaking breeds confidence.
But it was Ms. Schoenwether’s journalism class that really grabbed my interest. I took the class because I enjoyed creative writing, and this was, frankly, an easy credit on the way out the door.
Ms. Schoenwether’s dad owned a small newspaper in southwestern Michigan, and she had been a UPI reporter. When the year started, I just wanted another ‘C’ on the report card, but by year’s end, I was somewhat curious about this journalism thing.
And that’s how a career is born. High school teachers. As if they don’t have better things to do than shape young minds toward a fulfilling future.
I attended Macomb County Community College, Center Campus and worked at the campus newspaper, the awesomely named Ultimatum. It was a little tabloid with no real form or function. We published…whenever. I’m pretty sure the faculty rep and editor were having an affair. Basically, I learned what NOT to do.
(And researching Sunday night online for the Ultimatum, not a trace of its existence. Probably just as well.)
Then it was Central Michigan University, which has an actual journalism program and whose graduates, like me, have gone on to successful newspaper, radio, TV, and online careers.
I surprised myself by taking to journalism almost from the start. Creative writers are loners, and that was always fine with me. Newspapering meant I actually had to speak with other people, hold regular conversations, write down their comments, and then explain to readers why they should care.
Most young reporters want the cops beat, and I was no different. Riding with law enforcement is a thrill (so long as I’m not wearing bracelets in the back seat) and I learned plenty about real-life tagging along with those men and women.
Over time, though, cops became less glamorous and more real. Real people dying. Real people killing other real people. DUI manslaughters and fatal fires.
That’s the deal with cop reporting…we all have similar stories. The cops beat isn’t fun unless you like that sort of thing.
Both of my newspaper jobs were at publications small enough to require reporters to do everything. So, while I cut my teeth on school board, business writing, chamber of commerce, courts, law enforcement, hospitals, college board of trustees, and even how a nuclear power plant works — my golden ticket, my fortune so to speak, would be in political writing.
It’s Thanksgiving Week and I’m reflecting on the men and women who saw a talent in me that I didn’t — to report and write on the manners of a community. I am so grateful that God glanced my way and said, “Writer.”
I have no clue what I’d do if not write for a living. Not always a fun Sunday afternoon, but it sure beats digging ditches.
Or writing about them.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.