~ Keith Harrell in his book, “Attitude is Everything”
‘Attitude is Everything’, the title of Harrell’s book, is a bit of hyperbole because you could also say ‘persistence and determination are everything’, or ‘vision and goal-setting are everything’, or ‘passion is everything’, etc. But given literary license, attitude is way up there when it comes to self-development…or writing.
I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to a large group of students at Troy Buchanan High School in Troy, Missouri yesterday. It was a part of ‘Writer’s Week’ and I received an invitation thanks to the recommendation of a good friend. I was asked to read a few passages from my book and talk about my struggles. Well, I’ve had some struggles as a writer and did talk a bit about that. But my struggles as a writer were/are minimal compared to my struggles developing a positive attitude as a young man.
I may have drifted a bit from what the students and their teachers were expecting. I expanded greatly from discussing writing to contemplating life, i.e. one’s responsibilities to contribute to their own success. (See my previous article, “If You Want X, Then You Must Y”). Since I was asked to speak for forty-five minutes, time permitted me to expand. And because I only write to allow me to get the message of fatherhood and strong families across, my knowledge of writing likely pales to what they hear from other, more successful and experienced, writers.
My attitude as a young man did not suffer so much from being negative towards others. My negative attitude was towards myself! As I explained to these inspiring students, I suffered from shyness, insecurity, a lack of confidence, and lack of a guiding hand. That’s a lot of negativity! But a couple of goals and a passion for them pulled me through, eventually bringing me out of the darkness.
Why would I express my former weaknesses so openly? Because long ago I wish someone had told me how to get out of that crippling negativity. Brenda Ueland, in her book “If You Want To Write”, wrote…”I have said that art is generosity, i.e., you tell somebody something not to show off but because you want to share it with them”. More than anything, writing is sharing. That’s why you publish your work. Of course, you can write for yourself, such as a diary, but you are not bound by the same rules of writing.
Writing is like life
Writing is like life. In retrospect, I should have told that to the students of Troy Buchanan. Referring to my speech to them, I discussed listening, risk-taking, responsibility, persistence, planning, effort, patience, and courage. Those are all important in life, but they are also very important in writing!
While I could have discussed research, style, use of the English language, structure, or character development, Troy Buchanan has a writing teacher that will more than adequately cover those essential topics. I chose to discuss subjects that will, hopefully, not only help the students that continue to write, but those who will become contributors to society in a myriad of other ways.
My speech was called “Beginnings". Its message being that an early and informed beginning in any venture will be a tremendous advantage and positive start to success. Contradicting that advice, my modest career in public speaking began only three years ago - and I am old enough to qualify for Medicare. My forte is not public speaking. Therefore, I learn so much from every speaking opportunity. I learn from the faces I am speaking to and the feedback which helps so much, giving me an attitude of hopefulness and enthusiasm.
A young student stopped me after the speech and told me she understood my message, having suffered some of the same experiences, and thanked me - one student out of one hundred and fifty. Understandably, the final bell had rung and everyone was scurrying to buses and cars. Her gesture alone was enough to encourage me to continue my mission of helping families help themselves - and to help young writers. That was everything to me!
Writing is a lot like life - Life is what writing is about.
Thank you Troy Buchanan High School!