Putting an actual pen to an actual piece of paper is becoming a thing of the past.—at least that’s how it seems most days. I started writing quips and short stories back in 1945, back in the days that surely pre-date any social media account, smart phone app, tablet or laptop. This doesn’t mean that I don’t still like to scribble and jot ideas down when the mood strikes or when the deadline for my column is just around the corner.
What it does mean is that writers of my generation communicated in a different way than today’s 21st-century wordsmiths typing and uploading their stories at lightning speed. Now that I’ve been living as a “writer” for nearly 75 years, I can look back over my stories and notes I’ve jotted down since I was nine years old, and see how putting a pen to paper has shaped my life as a writer,
Looking back, I’m shocked that I’ve been writing this long. I hadn’t really given it much thought until I was chatting with my friend and childhood pal, Eloise Simplekins.
Eloise had always been considered plain—beginning with her name and continuing with her squat chunky figure, her thick unruly hair, her flat face, her squinty eyes, and her pug nose. But she is, and always has been very smart. Eloise always had a unique perspective and a kind word.
We met for lunch at the Main Street Diner in downtown Letongaloosa last Tuesday. Eloise wanted to tell me about her latest idea to expand her current business as La Mancha’s premier pre-cleaning lady and to reminisce about “the good ol’ days.”
“When I started my company, people in town thought I was just plum crazy, but I didn’t listen and I’m glad I didn’t…just like you”, Eloise grinned.
I smiled. I knew the story she was about to regale me with.
“I’ll never forget the look on Miss Bunker’s face when she read that note she caught you passing to Dean Larson. I still can’t believe that you convinced her that what you wrote was an idea for a story.”
“Ha, yeah. ‘Screw You’ I told her it was a title for a story about a boy who gets a toolbox for Christmas.”
Eloise laughed, “Miss Bunker said she wanted to read the story and threatened to call your mother if you didn’t finish it before we left school that afternoon.”
Smiling, I thought back to that day. Putting a pen to that piece of paper changed my life. It was the catalyst for my life as a writer—for my becoming a foreign correspondent, world traveler, newspaper reporter, and now, a humor writer.
I don’t consider myself to have had a particularly exciting or extraordinary writing life, but Eloise likes to remind me of that story I wrote for Miss Bunker.
A few years ago, Eloise started a company that services fastidious homemakers. Her idea was to send pre-cleaning ladies to homes where the homemakers can’t stand to let their regular cleaning ladies see the mess.
“Your gumption ‘way back when’ stayed with me. It gave me the courage to start my company. It took me a while, but I finally got to where I want to be…thanks to you, old friend.”
Over the years, Eloise and I have managed to keep up. We both have websites, blogs, a presence on social media.
So, I was truly surprised when Eloise told me her new idea: hand-written notes. She wanted to jot down “Thank you” messages to her clients for their business and support.
In a time when messaging and texting has become our primary form of communication, the idea showed 21st-century genius. Even I couldn’t remember the last time I had written or received a personal note—a grocery list from my wife, Emmaline, doesn’t count, does it?
It had been a good day. I left the diner that afternoon feeling good about my life as a writer and headed home to work on this month’s column. A few days later, I received a note from Eloise. It was hand-written and one of the best messages I have ever gotten from my old friend:
“Everything old is new again.”
Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co