The strength of a grown man plus a little baby

This is just a special little shout-out to my friend Zak, who of his own initiative doctored up my Drive-In photo so that it says “Josh’s Froz-T-Freez” on the marquee (as seen above). It was really cool of him to do that. It probably would have been months before I got around to doing such a thing, if I ever did it. So thanks, Zak. And speaking of Zak, he has his own blog which, among other honest truths, contains a virtual video compendium of the sayings of Dwight Schrute, inspiring television personality of that beloved television program The Office (beloved by Zak and I, at least). So go check it out, whoever you are.

Now that a friend has contributed to the betterment of my blog, I guess I’d really better start using it.

The story of my life with respects to writing (or, examining the mystery of how I ended up where I am right now)

I always kind of thought that I would grow up and be a writer. In 1st grade I started writing stories, and I kept on with it through elementary and junior high (Most of them I never quite finished, though). In high school I signed up for creative writing classes, and I discovered I liked poetry. So I wrote poems, and I wrote more never-finished stories with grandiose aspirations that were never fulfilled. I always maintained an impeccable GPA. I edited my high school literary magazine that nobody read. I stayed living at home, but went to college for a year. I took an intro to creative writing class. I started on classes for the English major. I submitted a poem to the New Yorker. Funny. Then I served an LDS mission in Ohio for two years. I sometimes tried to write things on my preparatory day, but it wouldn’t come. I sent some poems into a church magazine contest. I didn’t win, but they bought one of my poems and sent me a check for twenty-five bucks. I don’t know that they ever actually published it, though. I came home from my mission and took more English classes. I took poetry workshops. I felt like I did pretty good. The deadlines forced me to produce things, plus in a workshop you have a built-in test audience that has to read and react to your writing. I thought I would try to get an MFA in Creative Writing, and eventually become a Creative Writing professor. Because that is what poets do, right? They become professors and teach other people to write poetry and they get their poems published in the journals of all the other universities, right? That’s how all the great canonized ones did it, right? So I guess even then I was a little disillusioned with the state of poetry in society, as a niche academic specialty that seemed a little too cloistered, self-affirming and self-perpetuating. But I still wanted to play the game, because writing poetry doesn’t pay the bills unless you’re Kanye or 50. My senior year, I found that the two professors that I had planned on asking to write recommendation letters had both gone on sabbatical. I also was feeling very poor and like I wanted a job and to try something a little different. So I decided I would take a break from school for a year after I graduated, and try substitute teaching in the public schools, because I wanted to see if I liked teaching. I would then apply for MFA programs the next fall after graduation. So I started substitute teaching. My grandmother got really sick, and that took up a lot of time and made me kind of stressed. I didn’t write any poems. Fall came around. I kept putting off trying to get in contact with my old professors, kept putting off getting my portfolio polished. When I finally started trying to talk with the professors, I found it incredibly hard because I was no longer in school and didn’t know what was going on. I wasn’t a student so I had no claim upon their time any more. I asked them for letters at the last minute. I wrote a horrible self-sabotaging letter of intention. I slapped together a portfolio of old poems at a time when I basically hadn’t written a line of poetry in months. Needless to say, Spring rolled around and I got my rejection. I kept substituting. I told myself I didn’t really want to be part of that whole esoteric contemporary poetry crowd, that I didn’t want to teach stuffy academic classes to college students. My heart wasn’t in it, that is why I had sabotaged my own application. I’m still unsure if that is true or not. I kept substituting, I had nothing else to do. I read Harry Potter books and I read other children’s’ books I discovered while substituting, and I started to remember the kind of books and feelings that had gotten me interested in writing in the first place, when I was a kid: Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, Brian Jacques, Tolkien, Lois Lowry. I realized that an idea I had been kicking around for some poems ever since college was actually a better idea for a children’s/young adult novel. I started writing the thing during the summer when I didn’t sub. I wondered about trying to get a better job that had benefits, but I didn’t have a clue where to look and felt like I had no qualifications, just a B.A. in English literature. I did happen to get offered a better subbing job that payed a little more and was a little more fun. I didn’t write poetry. I got halfway through my first draft of the novel, and I got stuck. I decided to put it away. I just worked, and otherwise was lazy. At the end of the year, the good subbing job went away, but for some reason I didn’t feel overly concerned about this. Then early in the summer, the office through which I had worked as a substitute (Instructional Technology) called me up because a couple of secretaries were out with extended illnesses, and they wanted to know if I would help in the office. I did it for a month. I worked hard and enjoyed it. They decided to keep me as a sort of substitute-at-large for the department and just have me fill in anywhere extra help is needed. I discovered that, in addition to being in charge of the technology specialists who are supposed to train teachers in how to use computers and other technology for teaching, my department was also going to be inheriting all the library media people. I had always thought being a school librarian could be interesting, but I didn’t have a clue how to get into it. Now I am in the department that is over all such positions, and they are becoming more technology-centered. The idea of a job where I get to spend some time messing around with computers and the rest of the time trying to run a library and get kids interested in reading and help them learn to do research and stuff is quite appealing to me. So I’m thinking about starting next semester (January 2008) to take the classes necessary to get a media endorsement. But that book is still back there somewhere, whimpering for attention. And then there are the memories of my high school teachers who gave up their own writing to be teachers; I appreciated them, but I was never going to become like them. Books that never get finished don’t pay bills, though, and working a good ole’ 7-4 job and then coming home and watching t.v. or whatever feels pretty nice right now. The burning two-tongued question: If put in the work to become a librarian, do I give up the other dream, or can I do them both? Did my laziness give up the dream long ago? This is where my life is at at this moment.

Every week I tell myself I’m going to start a daily writing regiment, but I always put it off until the next day. No deadlines, nobody waiting to see what I come up with, nobody to answer to but myself, no paycheck, no easy finish like a fourteen line sonnet, not a thing about it easy or engaging in the least. But it’s still back there in the darkness, yelping and whimpering. Do I dress the wounds, pet it and feed it, give it therapy, put one of those big plastic cones around its head so it won’t lick itself, and take it out for a walk every day? Or do I get out the .22 and make it quick and painless? Not even PETA would care, in this case. Daydreams don’t have any feelings, they don’t have any advocates.

I think I’ll start writing again tomorrow.