In his poem, “In My Craft or Sullen Art,” Dylan Thomas wrote of the joy and misery of the creative process and the emotional drive to continue to produce that which one loves. I was a casual scribe with a limited audience when I was conscripted into the service of this publication. An error in communication between me and the creative director of this publication propelled me from a 100-sheet copier printing of a departmental newsletter into the writing of a column for a much larger audience. I’ve not regretted that error on any day.
My cousin posted on a social-networking site that she remembers our grade-school days, and our teacher often asking me to read my papers to the class. She was responding to a link to a Weekly View column that I had posted. Her statement surprised to me, for I did not remember that happening. When I reached high school, I worked as an artist for the school newspaper, with the occasional article. When asked for a quote for the seniors edition of the paper, I said that I would make my mark with either my artwork or my writing. I went from high school to art school, and writing was not on the curriculum. Many years would pass where my only “writing” was to delinquent customers of my company’s lending operation. I was a fully-formed adult when I quit my job and enrolled at Indiana University, where a counselor suggested, after some semesters of seemingly aimless course-taking, that perhaps I should major in English. I did so, with gusto, but never considered myself to be a “writer.” But as someone may have said, “if you would write, you must write.” And in 2009, I began to furiously submit my scribblings to this publication. And what was once pure joy became hard work.
I have periods of self-doubt, and wonder if my ink-smearing has meaning for anyone but me. I mull over the value of my reminiscences on the life I’ve lived, and search for subjects that might interest a larger audience. And then, a note shows up in the mail to the office, saying that a column I wrote about my young love was “excellent.” And a man named Lauren walks up to me at the Coal Yard Coffee company when I was there to hear the musicians, to tell me that he reads my column. Or, an associate tells my second bride that he has been reading my column for years without recognizing that she had once been married to me. At the Peace Rally on September 10th, in the front yard of Julian School 57, Mary Wilson introduced herself, saying that she was a reader. I joked that she was a singer and she went along with it, saying that she had been “quite famous, at one time.” (She was not really a member of “The Supremes.”)
The creative process is fascinating and the things that interest me, or excite me, or worry me, are the things I write about, hoping that it may do the same for the reader. Sometimes, after I’ve pressed “Send,” a rivulet of disappointment will flow through my thoughts: “I may not done my best, here.” Dylan Thomas wrote, “I labour by singing light/ Not for ambition or bread … But for the common wages/ Of their most secret heart.” As do I, Mr. Thomas. And also, for the small joys, the moments when I’m told that I’ve touched another in some way, either poorly or well. And, “… for the lovers, their arms/ Round the griefs of the ages…”
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