(Is this thing on???)
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Ever wonder what makes a person want to write, or want to be good at it? My dad said a good reporter never lets go of the curiosity, never lets politeness get in the way of a story – but also never lets a story get in the way of basic courtesy and humanity. In my humble opinion, modern journalism allows the story to trample humanity far too often.
We used to go for drives, just my dad and me, and we would talk. He told me about newspapering, reminisced sometimes for the entire ride. It was less a conversation than it was a feast of words.
He could paint such vivid word pictures that often I could not see the landscape through which we drove for all of the images crowding my mind.
He never talked down to me, which sometimes left me struggling to decipher a word by its context.
It seems as though I’ve known the four Ws (who, what, when, where – you all know them) all my life, along with that important H (how). Applying them was second nature even when I was in grammar school. Chasing a story with him, I could often tell him some or all of the Ws of it, which pleased him no end. And of course, it pleased me no end to have pleased my dad.
I wonder often if my personal philosophies were formed less by my own observations and judgments but by his. I can’t recall the specifics of our talks anymore. He died in 1968, and time erodes so many memories.
He was utterly irreverent, could make me sick from laughter or weep with empathy. He disliked pretension, subterfuge, hypocrisy and injustice – especially injustice. To him, family was the highest priority.
My siblings have different philosophies than I do, and although he talked with them and wrote letters when one of them was away, I was the one who went with him on stories most often. And on our long drives, I knew I was the world’s luckiest child.
We had an ongoing squirt gun battle, with only one gun. Whoever had it would sneak up and shoot the other, elude capture and hide the gun. Eventually, the victim would discover the gun’s hiding place, reload it and the game was back on. Months could pass between battles. I once spent the better part of an hour crawling through kitchen and dining room to the living room, to rise up behind his easy chair and blast him in the back of the neck. Boy, did I pay for that one! He trapped me in a closet and of course, I emptied the water pistol at him. But he had a turkey baster and a pitcher of water in his hands. Cheating was fair in our game.
Irreverence – dad went to as many of my choral concerts as he could. He would sit in the audience and make hideous faces, cracking up not just me, but anyone else in the chorus who caught his act.
There was never a doubt in my mind – and maybe not in his, though he never said – that I would follow in his footsteps. He wanted to write a novel, something that I don’t think even my mother knew. After he died, I looked everywhere, because I’d once seen several pages of a rough draft. I don’t know if I wanted to simply read it, or to finish it for him. But it was gone. He hadn’t had much time to work on it, anyway, working two jobs to support us until the day he died. Perhaps he chucked it. I don’t know.
That was part of why many of our talks were in the dead of night. He got home at exactly 12:20 a.m. from his second job as a copy editor at the Columbus Enquirer, and there I often was, waiting, even on school nights. We’d talk, eat peanut butter and tomato sandwiches, and eventually he would remember that I was supposed to be asleep. He’d send me to bed, but never rebuked me for waiting up.
All these years later, I often look at the clock and it’s 12:20 a.m. Funny how that happens.
I don’t know if he built a love of writing in me, or if he recognized it and simply tried to help my love blossom. He never said, and it never occurred to me – and there wasn’t enough time – to ask.I’m just glad that I have it, and glad of the things he taught me.
Like him, I became a journalist, and like him, may never see a novel published, though unlike him, I’ve written several. (NOTE: this was written in 1998, long before I published Memory’s Child)
I’m glad I had him, even if he did lie when he said freckles were beautiful. Even if he lied when he said his was transferring some of his freckles to my face when he grabbed me up and rubbed his stubbly face against my cheeks while I squealed and squirmed.
He’s been gone more than three-quarters of my life and I miss him still. He would have been 100 today. Happy birthday, Dad.
A while ago I wrote a list of some of the words and phrases that I just can’t stand.
I received such an overwhelming list of horrible words and phrases that I had left out of my list that I thought I should share them with you all.
Belinda from Bookarahma thought that I should have included:
H pronounced as “Haitch”
I could care less – that means you care!
Baby Bunting – an Australian baby store which does sound pretty awful!
Mistral from Mistral Dawn’s Musings wrote that:
For me it’s not so much the specific words that drive me crazy, it’s the way some people pick at things. If something is amazing, or a person is very talented, there is no reason to go searching for something bad to say about it or them. Why do some people feel like they just *have* to…
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It’s important to know what kind of writer you are so you can hone and focus your skills more efficiently. Every writer I know already does this. Romance writers read extensively in the genre, thriller writers read thrillers, etc. Reading other authors in your chosen genre helps you keep up with current trends and even avoid pitfalls.
Reading makes good writers better, but I don’t think limiting your reading to any one genre is a good idea. One good thing about the Internet is that writers meet and become familiar, or even friends with, authors who swim in different depths of the genre pool. Reading a friend’s work becomes an act of friendship, support and kindness, and when that work is in a different genre, your own reading experience is enriched.
As vital as reading is writing. Writing every day, writing when it hurts and especially when it doesn’t, is how authors earn the title. So what if that thousand words you produced before lunchtime sucks royal eggs? The thousand you produce before suppertime might be golden eggs. You just keep at it, day after day, until you’re satisfied with the result.
Or at least, as satisfied as you can be when you’re ready to publish. Inevitably, the minute you publish, you’ll think of something you forgot to say, a mistake you forgot to correct. Mistakes need to be corrected, but the rest of it – probably not. I don’t think any professional writer would stop editing, ever, if they could get away with it. Move on.
For those in the field of science fiction and technothrillers, aren’t these the most exciting times? Drones! Smart watches! Cars that drive themselves! Oceans on other planets! Hardly a day goes by that the latest tech news doesn’t give me an idea for a plotline. It’s like living in an Ian Fleming novel. Soak it all up. Read the latest news, read new books.
Then turn off the TV, get off Facebook, re-shelve those books you’re reading. Sit your butt down and write.