The early years …
Many people, since my retirement, has asked why I write. I’ve loved writing since I can remember first learning how. One of my favorite subjects in school growing up on the south side of Chicago was writing. I hated math, reading, spelling, history, social studies, geography, art, and even P. E. — but I loved to get creative in my writing.
When given a test, while most kids preferred (cannot say enjoyed because no test is enjoyable) multiple choice and the potential of having a 25% to 50% chance of guessing the right answer … I preferred the questions that required you to think and write out the answer.
In addition to writing, I was also a talented singer. I remember in 7th grade Mrs. Steinhoff – our English and Music teacher kept complimenting me on my creative writing ability and kept giving me solo’s in choir to sing. One day I mentioned that I would no longer sing (since singing was optional) if I couldn’t get better grades in her English class. I was only getting Cs at the time. She said I needed to work on learning English better and getting to know such things as proper spelling, grammar, prepositions, proper punctuation, prepositional phrases and all that other STUPID stuff that goes along with the perfect construction of a written piece. To this day I have no idea what a preposition or prepositional phrase is — and don’t care. Nor do I really understand Verbs, Nouns, and Pronouns – I just know they must exist because they have a name.
I reminded Mrs. Steinhoff that she thought my overall writing ability was good – better than most in 7th grade – and also reminded her that she once told us that F. Scott Fitzgerald – the author of The Great Gatsby – was so bad at grammar, spelling and all the other proper English needs, that his publisher hired a proof reader to follow him around and put the proper punctuation where it belonged and made sure the spelling was correct. Now whether that was actually true or not … I have no idea. Perhaps Fitzgerald was just drunk all the time … or perhaps she was simply trying to encourage some in her class not to give up even though they may have mental blocks about writing from time to time. Here is what I have learned since those early days …
Fitzgerald was read widely and demonstrated early talent for writing, but he was a lousy student who struggled to achieve passing marks in both grade school and in college. He had a penchant for cutting classes during his time at Princeton University, and nearly failed out before abandoning his studies to join the military. Despite his legendary command of the written word, Fitzgerald was also a poor speller and may have suffered from dyslexia. After reading a typo-filled version of “This Side of Paradise,” literary critic Edmund Wilson—a classmate of Fitzgerald’s during his Princeton days—declared it “one of the most illiterate books of any merit ever published…full of English words misused with the most reckless abandon.” Source: https://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-f-scott-fitzgerald
I informed Mrs. Steinhoff that if she wanted me to continue to sing solo’s in the choir my grades needed to improve in her English class. This was my first successful negotiation that I recall, since my grades were changed from C’s to B’s without my having to work any harder.
As I grew and matured … I became a romantic poet. I don’t think I ever had one girl friend that I did not sit down and write an original poem for. My only regret is that I gave them away and no longer have them. Oh, yes, I got all the rings back … but the poems were probably burned at the “Alter of Break-up.”
My Military Years …
During my short military career … I also wrote some poems and short stories. I sent some of these to my mom – who recently gave them back to me. Unlike Girlfriends, she knew how to “hang on to the good things.” One day I may publish one or two of the best.
In fact, I’ve already published one … in my Vietnam Article “going to War – Part 1 through 6 … it is entitled “Vietnam I Hate Every Inch Of You.” This was a poem I wrote that I converted into a song. You can find that six part article in my Blog entitled “Going to War…” and there will be six separate parts … or let me know in the comments below and I will send you all six parts in one document.
Back in the “Old Days” of my writing I did not have the use of websites, the internet or even a computer so everything was long-hand … and I still enjoy writing long-hand cursive. However, I’ve found that it is much harder to hang on to what you write long-hand. In all my moves around the country I have probably lost or discarded 95% of everything I have ever written.
Now with the invention of computers and the internet … nothing gets destroyed. It may get lost and it may take some time to find it … but it is out there in the on the world wide web or an internet storage cloud someplace. If you don’t find it someone else will. I even had an email last week from a person who wanted to quote one of my articles. She was doing some research about shop classes in schools and Googled about it. Her Google request brought up an article I’d written about a year ago. She got this article by using google … not by following me or my blog.
This tells me … “Be careful what you say, son … you never know who will be reading it.”
My short college career …
After getting out of the Military I decided it was time to put the GI Bill to use. I did not know “what I wanted to be when I grew up” so I went to a local junior college. I spoke with a counselor and told her that I’d just gotten out of he Military and was not sure what profession I’d like to work in. She suggested I take some kind of an “interest” exam.
I took it and was amazed at the suggestions that came from it. The one that struck me most admirably though was the suggestion to become an “Adventurer.” What the hell is an adventurer and how could college help me in that line of work. I didn’t know and I assure you the counselor was just as clueless. She reviewed my high school transcript and said that while I was a D/C average student … I seemed to excel in English. I did not tell her I’d negotiated higher grades because of my singing talent … I told her it was all because I could write good stories.
That’s it she said … enroll and study Journalism and Creative Writing. I did. All that lasted about six month before my dropping out. My journalism class was enjoyable, as was the creative writing class – but to get a degree I still had to take other classes such as that dreaded English and college level math. I never understood why. However, after a heated argument with the English professor (he would not negotiate a grade because I had nothing to offer him) I decided it was time to focus on work and supporting my family. I could always write later in life.
My working years …
During my actual working years I really only had three full time jobs. The first was with the Hines VA Hospital in Maywood, Illinois. That lasted about 3 months. Then I moved to the Burlington Northern Rail Road. This job had me on the 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM shift for about 4 years and that got old — though it allowed a lot of time for writing.
In 1976 I took a commission sales position with a financial services company and spent the next 42 years writing financial and investment plans for public clients. I say public because they were not institutional (which for me was too political). While I rarely ever wrote more than 100 financial plans in a year (many so-called financial advisors did more because their financial plan consisted of a boiler plate letter) I can tell you that 100% of my financial plans were “tailor-made” if there is such a thing. In other words, no two plans were identical. I actually tried to write the plan with the client in mind and tried very hard to relate it to only that client. Some of these plans were as short as 10 pages long and I had one that was over 250 pages long.
I found this to be exciting and adventurous work. Not every client was a financial planning client. Some were strictly investment clients … but I still would write an “investment plan” for them. As I said, I did this for 42 wonderful years … but then with the onslaught of needless government regulation being forced on us by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Financial Investment Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and eventually (believe it or not) the Department of Labor (DOL) … I felt it was time to retire in June 2018 and that is what I did.
Since my retirement, I have been writing a lot more.
My retirement writing so far …
Prior to retiring I had the bright idea to start writing letters to my grandchildren. I did not intend to mail these letters but rather put them in a book to be handed down to them when I am dead and gone. I would title the book … Pappy’s Journal. I’ve filled about a half of a journal but it has taken several years.
One of my daughters laughed at me when I told her about it and said, “Daddy I will have to read it to my daughters because it is written in cursive and they stopped teaching cursive in school long ago.” What ashamed! I understand some schools are starting to teach it again and that is great. However, I’ve decided to change course.
Since I have a tendency to lose my handwritten articles, letters and short-stories, I’ve decided to digitize them here on this blog. Another reason for this, of course, is that the blog site does do spell check – so unlike Fitzgerald I don’t have to have a secretary run around with me to correct my spelling errors. As for grammar check, that will probably come some time in the future.
The week I retired I went to visit my daughter and son-in-law in Tallahassee, Florida and asked for their help to set this blog up. And, since we did it I’ve been using it. Since setting this blog site up I have written and published 75 articles or short stories. This one makes my 76th. Some of these are technical investment articles, some are Fictional Stories about things that could be true, some are simply “rants” that I have and some are true stories of things I’ve actually gone through.
But, why do I write …
To me the written word is far more personal, meaningful and powerful than the spoken word. While there is nothing wrong with speech-makers, I find that many listening to a lecture cannot really listen intently if they are spending a lot of time taking notes so that they can remember what is said. The written word is that note for them to read and take to heart.
While I have never written a novel … I have not really ruled it out. I have come to the belief that not all good article and short story writers are novelist and not all novelist are good short story or article writers — while some writers can actually do both. I had a client that was a novelist and it would take him months to write one novel. During that time he would take on the personalities of the characters in is book and actually begin to act like them and talk like them. Me and his wife both are glad that he writes books about good decent people – even though they are fictional. Wonder what would happen if he wrote about bad people – would he still take on their persona?
I intend for my writing to be my legacy when I have left this world. People in generations to come in my family will be able to read some of the stuff I wrote and will know, hopefully, what kind of person I was by the way I wrote. My grandchildren and their children and grandchildren will have my words of wisdom (if you can call it that) as well as some of the errors in judgement that I made along the way (and I have made many). Hopefully they will learn something from these various writings.
Another major reason I like to write is so that my mind continues to work. I have been relatively poor at exercising my body … but have tried to always exercise my mind. I believe that the more I write the more I think and remember. The more I think and remember the less likely it is that I will come down with some form of dementia — which to me is worse than dying. I may be wrong … but that is the way I think about it.
I believe that everyone should have some form of Journal that they keep track of their life in – not for them – but for those they love! My writings will have to serve as mine since I’ve started and lost so many hand written journals over the past 43 years (yea, I started trying to keep a journal as early as age 25). I found the big problem was that I did not always like to talk about myself. That is why – as you read through my entire blog you will find much of my writings, while they share my opinions, do not necessarily center around me. This one does since it discusses “Why Do I Write.”
That is it for this article, Hope you enjoy it. Remember to make waves is the only way to get someplace so that you don’t simply end up where the current takes you.
Jerry Nix, Freewavemaker, LLC
5 thoughts on “Why do I write?”
I have read this entire article and agree that one must write to express themselves. My mom did and I am in the process of putting her notes into a form for the family to read. I am also trying to outline the family tree with the help of Ancestry. But Jerry, I still love to golf. Lately because it has been so hot and because my husband is not well, I have not been on the golf course that I love. BUT I WILL and if you want to come golf here, you will be welcome anytime. Keep on writing and let me keep on readying what you write. Blessings
Jeanne thank you so much for the note. You have no idea how much these mean to me. I love to write and I still like to golf. Le and I do intend to come play golf with you someday, but it has been to hot lately. Le says if we are paying those kind of fees it better be a nice day … LOL
I have a lovely book, gifted to me in my twenties, which I have been carting around with me for nearly 40 yeasts. They are hand drawn postcards with simple messages that a grand dad in the English army created whilst in the army in India for his Little People. Keep on writing.
Brizzy what a great story. Thank you for telling me this. I will likely refer to it in a future story if that is alright. Jerry
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No problems, Jerry:)
Pictures in the Post: The Illustrated Letters of Sir Henry Thornhill to His Grandchildren Hardcover – Import, 1987
by Michael Baker (Editor)