It wasn’t a dark and stormy night.
It was a hot, still night. I was sitting in an upper level English literature class halfway listening to an old professor who spent the entire hour and a half every Tuesday and Thursday leaning on a lectern casting his pearls of wisdom in a sluggish, low monotone voice. The clock on the wall ticked slowly away like a momento mori in one of Poe’s stories. I wondered if the Astros were winning; in that era that long predated cellphones I couldn’t even check the score.
In the midst of my misery the old professor’s voice, which usually lulled me into a groggy stupor, fell into an interesting and inviting cadence. I glanced over at my neighbor’s notes and saw these three words: James, Joyce, Dead.
I was a senior English major and was well aware that James Joyce was dead. So I knew that something else was going on.
It turns out the professor was reading the last paragraphs of Mr. Joyce’s short story titled “The Dead”, from his book Dubliners. The lazy river of that fine writing, drifting along in the professor’s deep voice, provided a very real epiphany for me.
I was still spellbound by that perfect assembly of words as I drove across town without turning on the car radio to see how the baseball game was going. I remember wondering how a human being could have possibly reached down in themselves and come up something that magical.
My goal to become a teacher of English expanded that night. I wouldn’t just teach about good writing; I would take a stab at creating it. I decided to become a writer.
So I went into my little apartment determined to start immediately on my new road, totally committed to this new life of letters and wordsmithing. I sat down at the table with a bologna sandwich, a beer, a long yellow legal pad, and a pencil.
And I didn’t write a word of anything of a creative nature for twenty years.
The obvious moral of this little saga is to not put things off. If you’ve got a story to tell, you have to be the one to tell it. Get yourself into a creative writing course or find a good book about how to write or just sit down and win the faceoff with the blank page or screen and write a first sentence (which should not be “It was a dark and stormy night.”)
Carpe Diem. Get the lead out. Get to it.
Daydreaming about writing is not writing. Intending to write is not writing.
Only writing is writing.