It is truly amazing how the writers of yesteryear managed to do their wonderful work without the computer. In general life wasn’t easy to begin with and writing must have seemed a luxury in comparison with survival day-to-day. How on earth did they produce such masterpieces? Writing today involves a comfortable desk and chair and a nifty laptop. Coffee or tea is usually close at hand. Heated and air-conditioned homes or offices are common place. Let’s not forget indoor plumbing. With all this cushy lifestyle one would expect it to be easier to write. I’m retired and have the desire to write perhaps a play. Perhaps I just need some motivation.
Years ago, in the one room school that I attended the teacher had us look at a calendar picture and then write about it. With pencil and paper we would write a composition about the picture and that would be that. I loved that kind of work but I recall other pupils in the class being stumped by the task. That’s about the extent of my creative writing training until university. No I’m not kidding. In highschool we answered questions about literature but creative writing wasn’t taught. In all fairness , if it was I must have been daydreaming about Ringo. In university I enrolled in literature and history courses but somehow didn’t sign up for any writing classes. Guess how my essays turned out. I didn’t know beans about syntax. Those professors were critical. Undeterred, I just kept writing essays in my own muddled way. Somehow my love of literature and interest in history made the grade.
My method of writing an essay was to hole up in the library and collect quotations which I hand copied and recorded their sources. Then I would read the class material and assigned literature while drinking coffee and eating french fries and gravy in the cafeteria. I wasn’t too regular in getting to class on time so most of my study was self guided. With scissors and scotch tape I would piece together my essay and write around my gathered material. It was like making a quilt . I did all this while still in the cafeteria. Nobody noticed. It was the seventies. The next step was to write it all out again with quotations, comments from my own material and sources cited. Once that was all done in legible form I would have to type it on a rickety typewriter that had a sticky letter “e” that made holes in the paper instead of typing properly in time to get it handed in. It was never creative.
The only opportunity I had to write anything creative was when I missed an exam due to a blizzard. I was living on a farm about thirty minutes away from the university as a newly wed and was snowed in for days. When I informed the professor he didn’t really take it well.( I feel obligated to describe him as a stringy red haired and bearded wiry troll who always wore a grubby poncho and sat on his heels while perched on a chair in front of the class as he lectured.) Confirming that it was indeed true that I couldn’t get to the exam due to weather he had to allow me another opportunity to take the exam. I was sent to his office to do so. He still was rather bent out of shape about things so he greeted me with a disdainful sneer and flipped a blank exam booklet at me and instructed me to write my ” own damn exam” and leave it on his desk. That was it. No guidelines, no questions, no exam… just a door slamming as he left me alone in his office. I sat there for a few minutes and then I got angry. Motivated by this outrage I sat there for a couple of hours and wrote everything I knew and didn’t know about whatever the course was about. I passed. I wish I had a copy of that exam. I hope he framed it! Troll.