When I was in High School as a freshman I would look at our school paper and the first thing I would read was the column by this ultra-wise senior who was also a basketball player. Talk about a trifecta: wise, senior, basketball. When I became a sophomore I began to think that I could do the same thing, they had no columnist for the Echo (name of our school paper) but I didn’t believe I was quite ready yet. By my Junior year I was on the Echo staff and learn to develop photographs (yes, this was still when we used dark rooms and had to actually “lay out” a newspaper since computers were not yet involved.) Then I submitted my first column. I don’t remember what I wrote about, but it was good enough for the Teacher/Sponsor of the Echo to give me a regular column. So when my first two knee surgeries took me out of any basketball playing I had to rely on my writing to attract the opposite sex. By the end of my senior year I felt I was a seasoned columnist. I wrote because I thought it was cool.
In my college years and in my years in business my writing languished. I had things to say but no format in which to say them. Then came computers: God’s gift to budding writers. I started writing my first book of fiction in the late 1980s and it took about 5 years to complete. It was on 5 1/2 inch floppy drives and was about 220 pages. Only a few have ever read it, it was never published, not even attempted to be published, and I don’t quite know where my copy is right now. I wrote it mainly to see if I could, kind of like climbing Mt. Everest.
Then I became pastor of a church and out of the business world. I was asked to write a Bible Study for Teens and when it was published I had the bug again. (It’s called Workout! And you can pick it up at discount tables or Amazon’s used books for less than a buck). I also started writing a column again in our church’s bulletin/newsletter. Because I was the pastor they let me. Being forced to write a column every week created a hunger in me. First: a hunger for something to write about since you run out of ideas pretty quick, seriously, try it sometime. Second: a hunger for reading things, anything and everything. Third: a hunger for memory helps, since I had the greatest idea for a column that would have changed the world but I forgot what it was – I didn’t write it down fast enough.
Today I write for two reasons. I write because I believe I have a gift of taking something complicated and through stories and weird connections I can make it simple and easy to understand. And I write because it helps me to focus my thoughts clearly and precisely. So here is my advice to you:
- READ, anything and everything. Listen to Books, Lectures, Classes on CD. Magazines, Blogs, and Websites. This will make you a broad, well-rounded, and interesting individual, the life of parties.
- WRITE, anything and everything. Your own column, blog, a journal, or even start your own book. This will force you to focus that broad knowledge you picked up from your reading and give you a conviction in what you believe.
Read to build knowledge and it will make you interesting. Write to build focus and it will make you firm in your convictions and beliefs.