I have always had an awkward friendship with writing.
When I was in journalism school our connection was more of a love/hate relationship. There were times I was really “jazzed” about a career in print. Then there were the other times.
When I got out of school, I gave a fair to middlin’ effort in finding a job with a newspaper. However, as I lived in our nation’s capital I faced a dilemma. My attempt at looking for work locally was akin to a high school player attempting to sign on to the Washington Redskins to play professional football. I lived in a major league city where the big boys and girls already had a spot on the team.
What I needed to do was go to small town America to hone my skills and gain some experience. At least, that’s what I was told.
But at the time I was a big city guy and liked DC. So I demurred. Ironically, I have spent about a third of my life in Podunk since then, but working as an educator instead of reporting on hog futures.
I haven’t given up on writing though. The romance is gone, but I still feel married to it.
The desire to be in print and get paid for my prose has waned and I write as a hobby now. The “what might have been” in terms of a professional writing career got up and left a long time ago.
But I still have a goal. My highest objective is to use words to influence people. I’ve had this ambition since high school, when I was a sports reporter.
I have learned from the experts that I don’t have to have “feelings” for my writing in order to produce. In fact, the gurus tell you that you just have to keep at it. So I do.Most writers have spells they just don’t feel like putting words to page, so I know I have lots of company.
What helps me to generate is to know my interests and write about those things.
What are the kinds of stories I gravitate too? I think I can tell by what I watch on television. For instance, the programs I have recorded on my DVR are a good indicator of my favored genres.
The other night I was watching TV with a friend and he couldn’t believe the number of programs I have recorded. I told him that I the reason I have so many recordings is that I scan the menu of programs offered by the satellite provider and click on those that arouse my curiosity.
If my predilections were determined by the number of recorded programs on the DVR, the analyst would note that I am drawn to humorous stories. I must have 30 recordings of the 1990s situation comedy “Frasier.’
It is no wonder this show is constantly available after 20 years. Like “M.A.S.H” and “Seinfeld”, the sitcom is a series of one liners wrapped around a story. The writing is superb.
In addition to providing a list of amusing stories, my DVR also reveals my penchant for history. I’ve always loved history. In fact, I minored in it in college. Thus, I tend to watch stuff that provides me with insight into the events and lives that came before me. I especially like military history.
I have numerous historical accounts presented by American Heroes Channel. Right now I am recording “Apocalypse: World War 1”. The series is filled with over 300 vintage pieces of film documenting the conflict.
I have also spent hours and hours watching Turner Classic Movies. The channel provides history within history. Not only do I get a story of days gone by, but the films themselves are documentation of earlier times. The stories give us a look at the technology and culture of the early to mid 20th century.
Recently my friend and I watched “The Gallant Hours” (1960). It was unusual for an American movie. Even though it was a film about war, there were hardly any battle scenes or explosions. The focus was on the characters, especially naval commander Bull Halsey, a man who helped the US Navy defeat the Japanese in the Pacific in World War 2.
“The Gallant Hours” was ahead of its time in its biographical story telling. Released in 1960, it used the “up close and personal” technique developed by ABC’s Roone Arledge later. At the time Americans were not that interested in Olympic sports, or foreign countries for that matter, so Arledge lured us in with his features on their private lives. Arledge focused on the challenges the athletes faced and overcame to become an Olympic hero.
Indeed, “The Gallant Hours” combined several features draw me in to a story. For example, the docudrama style combined the Hollywood embellishment of fiction with the facts of the characters’ real lives.
In addition to tales containing humor and history, I am also drawn to mysteries, especially the kind represented by crime shows. This interest surprises me in that I have never thought of myself as someone interested in depictions of wrongdoing. But the truth is, I watch a lot of “Law and Order” and “NCIS”.
I think what attracts me about these stories is the gradual revelation of the truth I get from detectives, police, lawyers, witnesses and criminals. I have always enjoyed researching something and then presenting the results. This is why I have been able to stay in teaching so long.
Sports also provide a compelling narrative. Every weekend I record a NASCAR race. While auto racing is not at the top of my sports viewing, I share an interest in it with friends and relatives. This season I have watched a race almost every weekend.
Last weekend at Talladega the unique story was about Ricky Stenhouse. Up until that Monster Cup series race he had never entered victory lane. Stenhouse has mainly been known as Mr. Danica Patrick, the boyfriend of the only female driver in the series.
Races at Talladega are known for their massive wrecks. The TV announcers kept talking about the “Big One” they expected. It did not materialize until the end. Stenhouse managed to escape the carnage and get the checkered flag.
Of course, the Internet was full of pictures of Danica hugging and smooching Ricky and . Who said sports doesn’t have romance.
As I reflect on it, the subject matter may initially attract me to a show, but what keeps me coming back again and again is good writing. I admire stories on TV that are well written and I believe I subliminally desire to emulate those who create them.