Curious how one thing leads to another.
The other day a friend sent me a link to an article by NY Times writer Michael Winerip, When Stars Were Just a Stamp Away.
Knowing that I love both baseball and good writing, HS sent along this article as he does others routinely. I loved it.
I’d never heard of Michael Winerip (how come?) and initially thought the article was simply another example of the wonderful intersections of good writing about baseball, family, and life.
But as I reread the article and the comments on the article (tipped off again by HS), I found myself curious about the author and began thinking about what he wrote at the end of the article, about why he and his father (and maybe his son?) write:
“I think that’s why my father wrote, and why I write, and the reason maybe my son will. We hope to create something more than what we are, something that might endure, even though in the end, it may just be a clever one-liner.”
(Digression: Wiith the wonderful power of the Internet, I began to search and to learn about Winerip. He’s been a writer for most of his life, the last 25 years at the NY Times. According to his website, he “led a team of New York Times reporters who won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for their series, “How Race is Lived in America.” For his story he spent a year with a police undercover narcotics team based in Harlem following them as they knocked down doors to do drug raids, interrogated informants in the back rooms of precinct houses and staked out high crime neighborhoods. The year before his expose on the New York state mental health system in the New York Times magazine was a finalist for the Pulitzer in explanatory journalism. His 1994 nonfiction book, “9 Highland Road” about community housing for the mentally ill was an American Library Association book of the year and a finalist for the PEN Nonfiction Award.”)
In thinking about Winerip’s article and the question he posed (and answered) over the days following my introduction to him, I began to consider a similar question:
Why do I write?
Why have I created MillersTime and made it an important part of my life, after spending almost a lifetime of working with children and their families?
In my adolescent years, I thought I might pursue a career in journalism. I worked on the Orlando Sentinel for several summers while in high school and wrote and worked on my schools’ newspapers and founded a press club. (I stuttered quite badly growing up and found that writing was a wonderful way to express myself when it was difficult to do so orally.)
Then my life took a different path. JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what can you do for your country” led me to the Peace Corps (tho I was headed in that direction already with an earlier summer in Tanganyika with Operation Crossroads Africa). So I spent two years in Sierra Leone, teaching and building and expanding my world.
Leaving the Peace Corps, I applied to what I thought were the two best programs in the country in my two areas of interest – Columbia School of Journalism and Antioch-Putney’s Master of Arts in Teaching. I was turned down by Columbia and accepted by Antioch.
Thus, my professional life led to an MAT and a Ph.D, and for the next 40 years to teaching, counseling, and working with troubled kids and their families. With several others, I founded and helped lead a school for emotionally troubled children and their families for more than 30 years.
When it came time “to leave the party” (my good father’s phrase about knowing when to make an exit), I thought I’d use the foundation we had created as a ‘vehicle’ for organizing what I would do next.
Instead, my energies took a different direction. I saw an advertisement from Apple offering for $99 a year the opportunity to meet once a week, one on one, with someone from their Apple stores to develop a personal website.
For the next year or so, I met almost weekly with several knowledgeable Apple ‘experts’ at one of the local stores to create and develop MillersTime.net. Eventually, after my father had passed away, I had a good deal of time, and by then, I was definitely using the website as a ‘vehicle’ for doing what I wanted to do anyway – follow baseball, pursue other escapes and pleasures, be in close(r) touch with family and friends, and pay attention to what was going on politically here and in other parts of the world – with the added pleasure of writing about those interests.
Beyond having more time to spend on what interested me, I liked being able to write about all of my post-retirement activities. I found I could pursue that long ago interest in journalism, in writing. MillersTime became my own newspaper of sorts, where I could decide what I wanted to ‘cover’ and what I wanted to say about those interests.
What a wonderful way not only to transition from my previous profession but also to see if I could truly write, if what I had to say and how I said it would find an audience.
That question is not fully answered yet. I do have a small following, primarily of people I’ve known in various aspects of my life over the years, and some of these MillersTime readers seem to enjoy various parts of the website and what I write. I do know that on some occasions something I post hits a chord with others.
I don’t know, yet, how long I will continue with MillersTime, or if I will pursue any other avenue of writing. Unlike Winetrip, I don’t think I’m trying to create something that will endure. At least that’s not why I started nor why I continue to write. I suspect my reason to write has more to do with providing me a framework for this time in my life and also is a way of staying in touch and communicating with family, friends, and acquaintances.
The more time I am spending in this endeavor, the more I am realizing I enjoy the writing and the pleasure it brings me. For now, it’s fun, rewarding, and at least seems to be bringing me back to what I once thought I’d pursue in my life.
I do have occasional thoughts of other forms of writing, some longer pieces, perhaps opening my writing (and self?) to those beyond my present audience, but I must say that for now, MillersTime seems to fit nicely into this time of my life.
So, thanx HS for sending me Winerip’s article and for spurring off these thoughts.
W. David Stephenson said:
Richard: you in turn inspired my writing! I used to have the leading homeland security blog, and used to post several times a day. Then I became twitter user #262, and quickly couldn’t write anything longer than 140 characters! The enjoyment I get from MillesTime was one of the factors that goaded me to start blogging again. I’m baaack: http://www.stephensonstrategies.com
Bill Plitt said:
Rick, I was interested in the experience you had with stammering, and how you developed a whole other new set of skills. As a teacher, you must have been able to identify with lots of students whose challenges led you to offer other strategies that played to their strengths. After all, sometimes, teaching for me is about catching students being successful. Keep on writing!
I have always loved what you write. From your dissertation to MillersTime. You express feelings so well, please keep doing it.
I now feel that Beth also has your passion with her writing. I enjoy her adventures too.
Peter F said:
I read your Millers Time, and I didn’t know that you were in Tanganyika , maybe you told me but I just don’t remember. Where in Tanzania did you go to? Dar es Salaam or maybe up north?
I didn’t know that you were a writer. Boy! You must of had a good laugh when you read my life story. It was the first time in my life that I wrote anything. I do think that if I had to do it all over again I could do a better job of It. Anyway, thanks for reading it and for your comments on it.