photo by Steve Penland

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wrestling with Demons

I was an American Studies and Creative Writing major in college (I know, I know, but a teaching license and a Master’s degree later and I ended up a happy Special Ed teacher—who writes a mean IEP). One of my more vivid memories of my writing classes was a conversation I had with my creative writing prof, Dr. Polansky. I apparently frustrated him a great deal.

“Most of my students,” he said, holding my latest offering like he was looking for a bird cage to line with it, “have great things to write about but have no ability to write. You,” he continued, “you have great command of the mechanics of writing; you just have nothing to say.” He paused, then delivered his ultimate bit of creative writing advice:

“You gotta wrestle with some demons.”

“Dude,” I wanted to say (except this was 1982 and no one in Minnesota said “dude”), “I’m a 19 year old college student from a good family. I don’t have any demons.”

Actually, I think I mumbled something inane about reading to be entertained and thus wanting to write to entertain, and scampered off. The comment stuck with me, though, and I do remember wondering what, if any, demons I would face as I got older; how would I deal with them, and would I want to write about them?

Now, almost 30 years later, I’m happy to announce that there are still no demons. (To be fair, Dr. Polansky was from the East Coast; I think they have more demons out there). Oh, sure, there are things that make me sad: watching my parents age and deal with health issues; seeing people be taken from this life far too early; seeing any kind of animal in any kind of distress (our dog Keira capitalizes on this last one regularly). And, of course (and most relevant to this blog…you were wondering when we were going to get back to skating, weren’t you?), it makes me sad that I can’t skate fast anymore. Still, that’s not really a “demon,” and despite how much I might whine about it in upcoming weeks/months/years, I know that it’s truly not a big problem in the whole scope of life. As I once said to the Hubster when he was complaining about something not going well in a rally (he races in car rally races), “if your biggest problem in life concerns your hobby, consider yourself lucky.”

So, while this blog is about skating, it’s also a way for me to do something I enjoy—use my command of the mechanics of writing to entertain myself by writing about “nothing.” If my writing about skating and “nothing” happens to entertain anyone else, so much the better.

Sorry, Dr. Polansky—still no demons.

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