Living the dream

Published 8:30 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2019

I cannot remember a time when I was not drawing or writing.

I scribbled and marked on paper, sidewalks, floors, walls and everything else. My mom said I’ve been drawing since I could grasp a crayon.

I was writing, like most children, long before I could read or write actual words.

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My love for both never slacked off.

I entered art and writing contests all through school. I won prizes in a few.

Though I at times wanted to be a police officer, a fireman, a preacher or teacher (like my dad or mom), a cowboy, knight of the Round Table or a T-Rex, my most persistent desire was to be an artist or a writer. After I became an adult, I sold a few pieces of artwork here and there. I wrote papers for school, sermons and lessons for church and edited quite a bit of things along the way.

But my jobs were not art- or writing-centered. I was mostly in retail sales and full-time Christian ministry.

I got to co-author a couple of books with my father-in-law years ago, but never came out ahead financially. A few people told me they were “impressed” with one of them, but more said the book’s topic of psychology and theology was too difficult to grasp. Most who purchased it or to whom I gave a copy probably never read it. Can’t say that I blame them. The other book was basically an expanded Sunday school lesson.

I wrote some freelance articles for a newspaper and magazine and got paid a few dollars. It was fun, but didn’t fit well with my full-time job and wasn’t the gig I was looking for, really.

I put a few short stories online some years back, to mixed reviews. I shared some artwork the same way. But the dream was still to write and create art for a living.

A couple of years ago, the newspaper I work for now — The Daily Leader you’re holding or looking at online — offered me a job doing page layout and some minimal writing. Since then, I’ve gotten to write content for the newspaper and its magazines, as well as create enough graphics that I felt I was offering something artistically, as well.

When I came on, I looked at it as another place of employment — a place to come in, do my job to the best of my abilities, and then go home in the afternoon. Newspaper life isn’t really like that, though. You work until the job is done and you become invested in your work.

One day my wife turned to me and said, “You know you’re getting paid to write, right? God gave you the opportunity you’ve been wanting.”

She was right, right? Write? And so I take this opportunity seriously.

No matter what I’m writing, I want it to be factual and entertaining. Some subjects are interesting only to a few — like those littered with statistics and such — and some are more wide-reaching — like those on people who love their jobs and place in life. But whatever I write, I want the reader to be glad he or she took the time to read it.

A man told me one day, “I liked your article in the newspaper this week.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “Which one?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t remember what it was about. I don’t like all of them, but I liked that one.”

A tough but honest audience. I can appreciate that.

When I was working on my master’s degree, I asked a professor if I could have a little leeway with the next research paper we were to submit. I asked if I could take all the information acquired and the school’s required formatting and make one tweak — make it “readable.” I wanted him and my fellow students to be able to read the paper as if they were reading a book for knowledge and enjoyment, not an academic paper. He liked the idea and said he’d give me one shot. If it didn’t work in his opinion, I would have to return to the standard academic fare.

So when time came for us to present our papers in class, I presented the overall content and argument of my paper and received critique from a previously-assigned peer critic, followed by critique from the professor and written notes from the other class members. Matt, my peer critic for that assignment, told me he disagreed with my conclusion, but really enjoyed reading the paper. Then the other students chimed in, agreeing that they, too, enjoyed the read even if some of them disagreed, as well. The professor then gave me a slightly harsher critique of the way I’d presented my argument, and added that he, too, enjoyed reading the paper.

I got an A, but even if I’d gotten a D on that paper you couldn’t have wiped the grin off my face that afternoon. I had accomplished my goal of getting people to enjoy reading an academic paper — and on a premise several disagreed with, as well.

I’m not the best writer, nor the best artist. I have never claimed to be and will never be so foolish as to claim either. But I enjoy it and I want to share some of what I believe God has gifted me for and called me to do.

I know that I write about some subjects people don’t care about. I make arguments many people disagree with or wish I hadn’t brought up. But I want people to think about something in a way they might not have, to gain knowledge and to be glad they spent the time doing so.

If I fail, I’ll try again. I can appreciate a tough but honest audience.

But if I succeed, I’ll be happy. I am, after all, living the dream.