Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Great Writer

The power cord on my cable modem at home doesn't seem to be working, and so I have no Internet. I'm currently surfing the net at work--most people are out of the office this week and it's nice and quiet.

I dated a girl named Mary in college. She was the most talented writer I knew. Mary was an 18 year old freshman and I was a 22 year old senior. Despite being an English major I was still a neophyte when it came to good writing(hated The Great Gatsby and On the Road back then). Mary would proudly show me her term papers (professor remarks read like, "You should be at Harvard or Oxford, not here!") and have me read over them. The problem was that I couldn't understand her papers. The writing was well over my head. Mary would get all frustrated because I couldn't comment on her stuff and I usually didn't bother to finish reading. Then she'd cry. I'd futilely try to explain that it was useless for me to read her papers as I couldn't understand what the hell she was writing.

Mary was a psychology major and I had to convince her into changing to English or Journalism. She was a born writer. But as great a writer as Mary was I always felt there might be a problem. She lacked imagination. She took a short story course and the professor felt most of her stories were publishable. I hated her stories. They seemed more geared for children's magazines than great works of art. Of course she was only 18 at the time and had yet to live, but I still wonder. It's been many years since I last heard from Mary. After we split up we briefly wrote and called for a few years until it eventually ceased for good back in 1993. In the last letter I received from her she wrote that she had won a writing contest in Philadelphia and was given a tour of Veterans Stadium.

I always thought while we were dating that we'd make a great writing team. I have a great imagination and she had the great writing skills. Together we could have written some great stuff.

I've always had such a hard time writing what I think is good stuff. It takes many hours and rewrites and I get extremely frustrated. I'd watch Mary write an "A" paper in 20 minutes. Her first drafts were usually the only drafts. But I've never seen her name anywhere in print. Maybe she never did expand her imagination. But I get jealous of someone with the skills that she had. I've always felt that I was meant to be a writer. I do have a great imagination and definitely have some book worthy moments in life. I've tried to live my life to the Jim Morrison quote, "Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a movie on?" So if writing is meant to be my calling, then why do I struggle so much with it? It could be because most people struggle until they hone their skills. Including the best writers.

I look back at Mary's life at 18 and think about how she got to be so good. She was ALWAYS reading. If she spent time at my parents' house (she lived in Philly and I was in NY) I'd find her in the mornings curled up in bed reading something from my mom's bookshelf. She was such a nerd in high school that she went to vocabulary parties(she really did) instead of drinking and sex parties. Of course all that changed once she got to college.

I read a lot growing up and was very advanced for my age in reading. Then something happened in my teen years and I stopped. I'm not sure why. I've tried to analyze this to find some sort of answer. My reading skills diminished and my vocabulary stopped growing. Maybe it had something to do with my family becoming extremely dysfunctional. I was very unhappy during my teen years. I don't know if that's why I stopped reading, but it's a thought. My studying English in college had nothing to do with love of literature. It was just a quick, easy way out of having to study too hard. But it did teach me to think and analyze life. I obviously began reading more at this point, but not enough. It wasn't until a few years ago that I consciously decided I needed to improve my vocabulary and my mind. I began reading about 30-40 books a year. My vocabulary has improved tenfold and I just feel so much more intelligent. But I wonder how I might have turned out had I not stopped reading way back when. Would I have been as great a writer as Mary? Can I still be that good if I keep reading and continue working on my writing? I hope so.


Blogger Michael Tompkins said...

Good writing is one of those things that contains so many skills, so I've got to believe that it's a product of things more than just nature. At least I hope that because only in the past three or four years have I even come close to being able to express myself in written form. Here's hoping the ceiling is as high as I can work to make it.

1:08 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home