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Spotlight: Writing Your Life Class Member Pat Guttery

Pat GutterysmIn the spring nine-week class, our theme was journeys, and each week the assignment was given to write a story about a particular type of journey—physical, intellectual, emotional, and so forth.

In response to the prompt to write about a writing journey, class member Pat Guttery, gives us the following life-story-writing recipe in his story, “The Writing Journey.” Pat takes us on a humorous trip to which I, unfortunately, can closely relate.

Pat’s rendition of the writing life is down a little further on this page, but Pat also had this to say about his writing experience:

I sometimes find it impossible to write due to life’s interruptions. Then it dawned on me that I was the biggest obstacle to my writing…To become an accomplished writer, you have to commit to practice consistently, regardless of your life schedule. You can get ready to write by creating optimal situations and work spaces, the right music, mood, candles, computers and all that stuff. Until you actually write, you aren’t improving your skills. In writing, there is no finish line except a completed story, poem, book, article, etc., which make you want to do it all again.

Also, congratulations to Pat for the publication of his story “Clotheslines” in the summer issue of the Halifax Herald, journal of the Halifax Historical Society in Daytona Beach. Well done, Pat. We’re proud of you.

 The Writing Journey

by Patrick Guttery

To run a marathon, the formula is simple, put one foot in front of the other.

In the year leading up to the marathon day, you train for about one-thousand-five-hundred miles.

Marathon day, put left foot in front of right about 50,000 times or 26.2 miles and cross the finish line. The organizers will hang a medal around your neck, put a Mylar cape over your shoulders, take your photograph. You will get teary-eyed. You’re done.

Whoever does this the fastest gets their picture in the paper.

To write your life, the formula is different. Begin by gathering family records, photographs, scrapbooks, notes, report cards, church bulletins, locks of hair, childhood drawings, bible records, arrest reports, mugshots, newspapers and videos.

Assemble all papers in chronological order, which you will not abide by when you actually begin committing to paper. Put box in the attic.

Return to the relatives’ places of origins. Interview any and all sources—neighbors, friends and teachers. Go to graveyards and search the tombstones, hoping for the correct spelling.

Set up writing space at home, preferably a room with a great view and door lock on the inside, deadbolt a plus. Install small refrigerator and fill it with your favorite ice cream and beverages to keep you healthy, because you need to take care of yourself.

Go to Shopping Warehouse and buy one pallet each of legal pads, paper clips, number two pencils, potato chips and Diet Coke or Light Beer.

Go to Best Buy and by large desktop and laptop computers, two auxiliary hard drives, hand held dictating machine.

Sit down and follow these rules for writing: Show, don’t tell. Use all the senses—see, touch, smell, hear, taste. Research for hours. Show story to relatives. Receive criticism from relatives. Argue with relatives who remember differently. Visualize. Focus. Edit. Revise.    Write drop-dead notes to the relatives that really, really, really tick you off. Mail notes, if you desire.

Start over.

          By the way, there ain’t no stinkin’ finish line.

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