Friday, April 21, 2017

My Writing Exercise: A Heavy Mule at the Pierian Spring

Image result for bad writer at the pierian spring

Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past,
Turn'd Critics next, and prov'd plain Fools at last.
Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass,
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.

I was told by my teaching mentor, " If you plan to teach writing, you had better write for at least two hours before you come to teach."  That meant getting up well before "It's time to get up."

It also meant that I needed to steal myself to a habit of engaging my craft.  Aristotle wrote, " We are what we repeatedly do,"  The famously taciturn President Calvin Coolidge said, "  Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

A grammar school coach, Tom Spatz said, " Losers have potential."  He also, asked me if I had polio a few years earlier, when he saw me dribble a basketball.

I still dribble a basketball like an exceptionally challenged human being. All Up in here!

However, since signing my contract at Bishop Martin D. McNamara High School in May of 1975, I have written for two hours before I went to teach my students.

This habit did not make me a great writer, but it did help me become something of an effective teacher.

Reading, speaking and writing forces one to engage other human beings.  Reading introduces thoughts, deeds and manners of expression far beyond our immediate social circle.  Speaking helps us say what we mean.  Writing requires exactness.

I write whatever comes to mind and that is a mixed bag to be sure.  What I hope will happen by end of my scribbling and correcting and modifying will be short, satisfying defense of all the things have made my life fun, fruitful and favorable to someone who reads what I have written.

Lessons learned from good people, who have provided for other people as tradesmen, butchers, milkmen, nurses, police officers, firemen, coaches and teachers mean as much and often more than picked up from pages from Balzac, Turgenev, Gorky, Joyce, Tacitus, or Swift. The harmonies of sounds pulled from the din of a loud basement full of relatives and family friends at a Christmas Party among picnic tables lifted from the forest preserves covered in table cloth and loaded with potato salads, cold cuts, pots of Italian beef, corned beef, Kapusta, Mostaccioli, cakes and soad bread; with blaring accordions, fiddles, tin whistles played by Cuz Teahan, Jimmy Neary, Tom Masterson and Kate Neary, or a powerful HiFi loaded with Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Prima and John Coltrane.  Cousin doing Irish step-dancing, or Sugar push and out back steps to Gene Krupa.  Then of course just free-form, white guy moves to This Old Heart of Mine by the Four Tops.

An uncle pulls you aside and tells you to knock off whatever the hell it is that you think you are doing.

Your aunt tells him to go and have another beer and mind his own business and to turn the car keys over - Now. 

Scores of kids scream with delight, or terror.  Several cry because they being picked on and comforted until they can go and pick on someone for themselves and all is good.

Words impact from everywhere.

The meanings of those words will be lost on the world, unless someone remembers what the hell was said.  Memory can often be very convenient.

Memory is the burden carried by one who writes and that burden only gets eased with writing down the words.

Sometimes words seem like leftovers from a party.

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