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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Diagramming my love of writing

  • I can clearly recall struggling with my junior high homework assignment in English – diagramming sentences. For me, it was the “algebra” or “trigonometry” of grammar. In frustration, I would wad up the notebook paper and send it tumbling into a wastebasket like a Jerry West jump shot.
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  • I can clearly recall struggling with my junior high homework assignment in English – diagramming sentences. For me, it was the “algebra” or “trigonometry” of grammar. In frustration, I would wad up the notebook paper and send it tumbling into a wastebasket like a Jerry West jump shot. Sure, lining up the subject, verb and direct object was fairly easy. But things got a whole lot more difficult when the teacher began to give us compound sentences with all sorts of participles and modifiers. I had a second encounter with sentence diagramming my sophomore year in college with the same amount of frustration and the same lack of success. To this day, I have never fully understood the importance of diagramming a sentence other than it being simply an obnoxious exercise to test the limits of my patience. Despite the problems associated with diagramming sentences, English – grammar and literature – was my favorite subject in school with history and political science running a close second. I love writing so it seemed natural that I turned to journalism as my life's trade. While I know I am far from being a master at the profession I personally feel that I have enjoyed my share of success over the years. I particularly enjoy meeting and talking with the people that I write about but I don't get to do that as frequently as I once did. One of my favorite weekly tasks is to turn out this column. I have used it as a means to express my opinion on a wide variety of topics and talk with you, the reader, about a variety of subjects, particularly those close to my heart. There have been times when I felt it was necessary to complain about some serious issues facing our community but I really prefer the gentler nostalgic pieces – they simply seem to flow right off the keyboard onto the page. Singer-songwriter Neil Diamond once stated that the felt he became a better composer when he began writing about something he knew best – his own life and influences. From that philosophy came some brilliant tunes such as “Brooklyn Roads,” “I Am, I Said” and “Sweet Caroline.” I tried the same technique with this column and for the most part, I believe it works. I simply call it writing from the heart. Writing from the heart seems to be a lost art in song lyrics and books as well as movie and TV scripts. I must admit that I don't listen closely to many of today's modern songs. Those that I have noted seem to be put together to complete a rhyme scheme, or to make a quick dollar. Few books and movies exist without raunchy, vulgar words, excessive violence and plenty of sex because frankly that is what sells. I must confess that I rarely sit down and read a novel but I have read my fair share of books in my lifetime, particularly biographies. Having grown up in the TV generation, I don't have a favorite author but I have several scriptwriters that I admire. A short list includes Rod Serling, creator of “The Twilight Zone,” Earl Hamner Jr., who created “The Waltons” and Michael Landon, whose writing credits include “Bonanza” “Little House of on the Prairie” and “Highway to Heaven.” There are others but these three are prime examples of writing from the heart. I've come to recognize their works without actually having to read the credits. My second favorite part of writing is the interview. You get to learn so much about people by just sitting down and letting them tell you their story and I honestly believe that everyone has a story to tell. Among my favorite interviews were a Vietnam soldier who had been to hell and back, the Lone Ranger's stuntman double, New Jersey undercover police detective David Toma, then Arkansas Governor and future President of the United States Bill Clinton and former Senator Dale Bumpers. I am not sure that we will ever return to a trend of writing from the heart. Today's writers just don't seem to have the time, or won't take the time, to sit down and write their personal experiences. Speaking for myself, I am glad there were some that did because it is a link to our past and what made the U.S. a great nation. I am also glad that I didn't let my frustration over diagramming a few sentences in high school and college discourage me from doing what I love to do – write.
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