NOT JUST ANOTHER DAY IN MY LIFE.
I HAVE HAD MANY DAYS IN MY LIFE. ABOUT TWENTY SEVEN THOUSAND GIVE OR TAKE A FEW. I HAVE BEEN TOLD FOR MANY YEARS THAT I SHOULD WRITE A BOOK BUT DIDN'T KNOW WHERE TO START. FINALLY, I DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT AND COMPLETED A FULL MEMOIR WRITING COURSE LAST YEAR. I WROTE FOURTEEN MEMOIRS, 50K WORDS, AND THEN REALISED THAT IT WAS A BOOK. IN TWO WEEKS MY FIRST BOOK WILL BE PUBLISHED (SELF PUBLISHED - THAT IS) AND I HAVE SOLD ALMOST A HUNDRED COPIES ( A LOT OF THEM TO COMPLETE STRANGERS) SO MY COSTS ARE ALMOST COVERED ALREADY??
SO, CHILDREN, HAVE FAITH, IT CAN HAPPEN EVENTUALLY. HOW MANY OF YOU HAVE PUBLISHED IN YOUR SEVENTY FOURTH YEAR AND WITHIN FOURTEEN MONTHS OF STARTING TO WRITE???
I NEEDED A ' FORWARD' AND MY COURSE TUTOR, INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN I MAY ADD, ( See www.joekita.com) KINDLY WROTE HIS IMPRESSION OF ME. I REPRODUCE IT HERE AND YOU WILL REALISE WHY THE DAY I SEE MY BOOK WILL NOT JUST BE ANOTHER ORDINARY DAY IN MY LIFE.
AT MY AGE I AM ENTITLED TO BLOW MY OWN TRUMPET (OOPS-My first cliche in months) OR AT LEAST READ SOMEONE ELSE BLOWING IT FOR ME??
FORWARD TO ' ERNIE WHO???'
Writing is such a humbling art. Just when you think you’ve become good at it, when you’ve mastered the formula, when you’ve learned about everything there is to know…along comes something (or someone) that knocks the smugness right out of you.
I met Ernie Jackson on Crystal’s 2007 World Cruise. I was the memoir instructor aboard ship, with the job of helping guests write and possibly even publish their life stories. I have a degree in journalism from a prestigious university. I’ve edited national magazines. I’ve written five books. In all, I’ve spent almost 30 years in the publishing business. I was smug. And then along came Ernie.
“Are you the memoir guy?” he asked when we first met aboard the Crystal Serenity at the start of the 3 ½-month trip. He delivered this as more of an order than a question.
“Yes, that’s me.”
“Where do I sign up for your class? This is the reason I came on this cruise. As soon as I saw it in the brochure, I told my wife Val, I’m doing this.”
Enthusiasm normally runs high at the start of courses like this, but once people discover how much work is involved many of them make excuses and quietly slip away.
But not Ernie. Not only was he regularly among the first to show up for class, but he was also a prolific writer, churning out stories that were so instantly enjoyable they began circulating among the guests and crew. Whereas before he used to proudly say that he looked like Sean Connery, after a few months of writing at sea, he began to prefer comparisons to Ernest Hemingway.
Here’s the thing about Ernie that knocked the smugness out of me. Ernie had never written anything other than police reports in his entire adult life. What’s more, he confessed to rarely, if ever, reading books. As a writing teacher, when you hear things like that, you immediately lower your expectations because you know you’re working with very raw material. But this was not the case with Ernie.
From his very first story, he showed an impressive sense of description and pacing. Everyone enjoyed his tales and asked for more. I puzzled over where this innate writing sense was coming from. It turned out, his training as a policeman had given him a sharp eye for detail, which is a vital skill for writers. His detective work had also given him an immutable sense of logic – that one thing must lead to another – and this is also important for effective story-telling. But perhaps most important, the courage that a policeman must regularly show, his swagger if you will, was evident as well. Ernie was the first person in class to write about sex. He also wasn’t afraid to confess some dark secrets from his past. And he even cried when one of his stories about his mum was read aloud in class. Perhaps more than anything, good writing requires honesty and bravery on the part of the author. And given Ernie’s career, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that he exhibited both so well.
I’m proud to have played a small role in the creation of this memoir. It’s the story of one man but, like all good memoirs, it’s the story of us all. You will recognize parts of your own life in it – we all have our Winnie McFee’s, for instance – and you will learn from it.
Never again will I be smug about anything that has to do with writing. I know now that as long as a writer is willing to be honest and brave, like Ernie, it can more than compensate for any lack of formal training. To write from the heart with heart is, I believe, the secret to this art.
Thanks Ernie, for teaching me.
January 13, 2008
Published on writebuzz®:
> A day in my life