I met someone I knew from high school a few week ago. We shared experiences that have taken place over the 20+ years since we last spoke along with the usual, “Have you kept in contact with so and so?” questions.
We talked for a few more minutes. She showed me a picture of her family. I had left my iPhone, that contained a number of pictures, back at the office. So I said, “I have a few pictures of my kids posted on my blog” and gave her the URL.
“You write a blog?” she said. I could tell from her reaction that she was surprised. Maybe realizing how I might take that, she quickly added, “It’s just that…I only remember you being into sports”.
I didn’t take offense. Probably because this identical conversation has taken place at least a half dozen times over the past couple of years. And partially because most of my time in high school was focused on sports. That’s all I gave people to remember me by.
What few of my friends knew about me back then was that I enjoyed writing. I began keeping a journal at 14 years old and continued to jot down my thoughts until I returned from Germany. I returned from Germany having added over 300 pages to my journal during one of the busiest times of my life. I often wrote while sitting on trains crossing the German countryside or by flashlight late at night while trying not to wake my companion.
Over time, I became more confident in my writing skills. I purchased a thesaurus and spent hours looking up words I’d never spoke or written before. I fell in love with the Far Side comic and the way Gary Larson selected words that were intrinsically funny. The cartoon below is one of my favorites. The picture itself is goofy, but the word, ‘vigorously’, is what makes me laugh out loud each time I read it.
Comic writers have so little space in which to get their humor across that each word must be precise and carefully selected. Larson would be a pro at Twitter and texting.
I no longer have to pull out my thesaurus or dictionary. With the internet, almost every tool I need to write is a few keystrokes away. One of my favorite Google Chrome extensions is Google Dictionary which gives me the meaning of any word I double-click. I still reference an online Thesaurus when a word eludes me.
But nothing replaces sitting at my computer and writing. Don’t wait for the perfect topic to pop in your head. Just start writing and you’ll find that topics and themes will come to you more easily and more often than when you’re staring at your monitor. It doesn’t hurt to read books about good writing. This is my favorite such book I read this past year.
And the next time someone acts surprised when I tell them I write a blog, I’m going to saying, “I needed something to fall back on when the Yankees didn’t draft me”.