By Bill Longworth
First Public Reading, January 30, 2008
I remember clearly when I first derived pleasure from the act of writing. It’s as clear as if it was yesterday. In fact it was close to fifty years ago when the teacher in my one-room country school assigned everyone, including this grade two youngster, the task of writing a story.
It was probably a lazy Friday afternoon too wet outside for baseball, which from the numbers of times we played, seemed to be a passion for the teacher, or to avoid the massive cleanup associated with art class, the other Friday afternoon favorite.
Anyway, for whatever reason we were given a writing assignment for the first and only time that I can recall. The memory of it has remained all these years so obviously, it had to have had some significance in my life.
I can’t remember the topic, nor can I remember much motivation the teacher provided in the way of creative stimulus. All I can remember is the activity itself and my satisfaction at the result.
The words poured onto my paper as if a dyke had broken and they consumed page after page after page. Had the teacher not called “time”, I would probably still be writing.
Looking back, I undoubtedly had a case of verbal diarrhea confusing the weight of the tome with its quality, a confusion many around me say I still have.
Throughout my working life, writing became an important communication tool, often growing in complexity to mystify the readers including myself at times. Perhaps I had some hidden agenda to impress rather than to inform…a malady I’m working hard to correct as my computer records 284 words out of the 500 allocated for this exercise.
So now, you must be wondering what the significance of that early writing was in my life. It was the first time that I can ever recall doing something that led to positive feelings about self, a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of being able to do something worthwhile. I think the teacher even found something good to say about my piece and for a kid that didn’t hear much praise in those early years, her words were magic.
I think this one writing assignment set the stage for all that I was to become. In an instant I was transformed from a lost child with many self doubts in Children’s Aid foster care as a result of marriage breakdown when that was not the norm it is today to a confident, self assured, and independent person determined to conquer the world and with the feeling that I had the skills to do it.
So thank you teacher for your lazy Friday afternoon “busy work” assignment for leading me to discover that I was okay; that I could do something worthwhile. Your unplanned and unmotivated activity gave me the initial stimulus to lead to what many would define as a worthwhile and successful life.
So why do I write? I believe that writing is the root of everything positive in my life…a fact that I have accidentally discovered by writing this story.
It was that single writing exercise that led me to think profoundly and passionately and have pride and confidence in what I could say and do and the courage to express it to the world.