Monday, December 28, 2009

Last Column of the Year

This is my last column of the year. I write a column every week. I have been doing this now for 20 years. That is over 1000 columns. If you count the column I had as a Senior in High School you could probably add another dozen or so to that total. A couple hundred of them have been put into books, a couple dozen have been published in other people's books, a few newspapers get them and publish one or two of them a month depending on if they have room. My column has not "taken off" into national syndication, the blog form hasn't gone viral, and my website has trickled down to only a few hundred visitors a month. So why do I keep doing it?

There are times when I think of running for political office and then I remember that I have 20 years of thoughts and columns for my opponent to pick through and find glaring politically incorrect statements I've made. I force deadlines on myself and sometimes just don't want to write and sometimes I just don't have any ideas that seem worth sharing. So why do I keep doing it?

I write for the same reason some of your go to the gym. I write for the same reason some of you jog or walk every day. Writing is my exercise. It stretches my mind. It forces me to do things that I normally don't do in any given day. As I sit here the beagle in my brain is running to corners and dark places, sniffing out words and phrases, thoughts and stories, and bringing them back to the place where he can deposit them through my fingers to you. So many things have been seared into my memory over the 50 years of my life but so many things have been lost on the receding train track of time. Writing gives me a chance to run to the caboose and look behind, memorizing as much as I can before it is captured within that distant line on the horizon. I write as exercise but also there is something more, I think.

A seventh grade teacher slapped a wooden yard-stick on the desk of a sleeping 12-yearold so hard that it broke into pieces. He woke with shock and embarrassment to not being able to close his eyes again for days. Later that same teacher took the writings of that student and read them in front of class. It was a "Hitchcockian story" he said and it was about an eye transplant going wrong and driving the owner of the new eyes crazy because colors weren't the same, shapes were different, and the world was wrong. After he read some of the words out loud to the class he said, "This is some of the best writing I have ever read from a seventh grader!" The teachers words were more shocking than the shattered yard-stick to the kid.

My beagle just found that story in an avenue of my mind that hasn't been explored in decades. That may have begun my fascination with the written word but I think it really just legitimizes my penchant for day-dreaming. Writers are just daydreaming kids who invite you into their world imagined.

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