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Thursday, August 5, 2010

My writer's journey continues . . .


Part III.

I was well into my 30s when I switched gears and began to climb a corporate ladder in the automotive industry.

Engineers may know their nuts, bolts, and hydraulic processes but a significant number of them paid little attention in their English classes. I corrected grammar, punctuation, and syntax. I edited the technical writing of product launch books. During this time, I also finished the requirements for my master’s degree and worked part-time for another auto company. Eventually, I moved up enough rungs to become a market research project manager where I made numbers "talk" in the show-and-tell presentations that I shuttled up the elevator shafts to senior management. But it was the few years that I spent at the employee newspaper that stoked my love of creative writing. (Let’s see, journalism . . . creative writing . . . I guess there’s a correlation there.)

One particular event while working for the newspaper stirred the writing embers. I begged, pleaded, was assigned to participate in an off-road, four-wheeling, rock-climbing adventure on the Rubicon Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains—a 10 on a difficulty scale of 1 to 10—and then write about the experience. I slept atop a granite outcropping, saw a vehicle slide off the trail and end its roll with all four wheels in the air, a high-level manager encountered a black bear in his tent, and the sponsors of the event brought in entertainment that included a grand piano flown in by helicopter. The article occupied the entirety of page two in the weekly employee newspaper and earned me a credible "atta-girl" from the director of corporate communications. (A former Navy seal with a marvelous handlebar mustache, he wore his full dress kilt for his son’s wedding--a perfect model for a characterization in a future story.) He urged me to send off the story to automotive off-road magazines. I did not have the courage to seek that level of professional status, but the need to write had begun to smolder.

Then a new love entered my life, and I happily returned to syncopated rhyme. When the heat of the affair dissipated into cold realities, I spent countless more hours documenting my loss in poetry and journals. This time I banked the writing fires.

You keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.

cj

Note: The subject of the Jeff Johnston picture is a 100-plus-year-old water mill just outside of Crystal, Colorado. Abandoned years before, it was still hanging on.

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