The idea for this blog post came from an article I read today at Fox News Dot Com. Titled “Please, Stop following your dream!” It is a harsh but honest call for people to find out what they are good at instead of wasting years on something they are not. At one point, the article asks about having a mentor. This made me reflect on my life and my pursuit of writing. I’ve wanted to write for a living since my freshman year in High school. I’ve always been a good storyteller but I had (have?) rough edges as a writer. Drawing people in to the stories I create through writing isn’t hard for me, but I have not always been receptive to criticism. I also had a tendency to slack off in areas I needed to concentrate on, making my writing uneven in many places. When I attended high school, the reactions to my writing were either super positive or super negative. People either liked my work without critique or questioned why I’d even want to devote myself to a career I would obviously fail.
It’s easy to ignore both extremes. I knew I needed help (Even if I didn’t take criticism well) but I also knew I wasn’t a bad writer and could make a living at it. I had no real mentor in my life to help guide me, a person that wasn’t afraid to tell me like it is but still could help me become better. My brother did a decent job of pointing out things I could work on, but by the time I really started writing, he was in the military.
The closest person to a mentor in High school is my Senior English teacher. He loved my essays and the way I wrote, ranging from subjects matters on Pygmalion to a treatise on Hamlet’s friend Yorick (who he knew, Horatio. Alas.) My end of the semester project for his class consisted of a bunch of poems I had written, angst ridden pieces where I opened my dark soul to the sight of the world. After reading these pieces, this teacher took me aside and said there was only one poem that was decent, the rest were pretty bad, and I needed work on being a poet. However, he added, I wrote prose well.
It took me a little while digest what he said I eventually realized he was right. I wasn’t a good poet. I am still not a good poet. I may be poetic in descriptions and paint images with words, but writing poetry just isn’t something I can do well. I haven’t improved in the twenty years since that class either. You know why this is?
I am not a big fan of poetry. Like some of it, but for the most part I’d rather read a good book.
My English teacher knew this, I think. I always knew. The pieces of poetic verse thrown in to various fantasy stories made and still make my eyes glaze over. I love the Lord of the Rings, but I always skim over the poetry in the books. I don’t mind song lyrics and music, but poetry? I just can’t get in to it. I’ve tried on many occasions, but… I love songs. I can lay back and read the lyrics to an entire album while listening to the performers sing. I realize that song lyrics are a type of poetry, and some are poems, but I’ve never been one to really get in to traditional poetry.
Because of this man, a person who’s name I can’t exactly recall now (Mr. McCuen, I think. I need to look in my yearbook,) I didn’t pursue an area of writing where I didn’t have much talent. One could say the he was a tad harsh, but I am thankful for his critique. I can tell you I didn’t spend much more time writing angst ridden and overly bombastic poetry laced with dark and complex (heh) emotions.
Nah, I just started to emulate Stephen King. Go figure.
Also, I know that I am an ever-changing person. Even in my thirty-seventh year of existence, I find that change is the one constant. I am thinking I need to delve in to poetry again. I may never be a good poet, but maybe I can grow to appreciate it a bit more.