Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Git 'Er Dun!

guest post by June Johnston


Photo by June Johnston
When I was asked to write a blog post for Writing Wyoming my first inclination was to shout no, no, no! I thought about it for about ten seconds and figured since I call myself a writer, I must write. So I agreed, even though, as I explained to Lynn, I feel woefully inadequate.

The ones reading this post will all be writers that actually know what they are doing. Years ago I heard someone in the entertainment field say they could more easily perform in front of ten-thousand people than a room full of colleagues – especially when they are new at their craft.

That has been whirling around in my head ever since I agreed to do it, but because I try to always keep my word, I decided to git-er-dun. I came up with a few ideas but they all went the way of the Snoopy’s-writings-with-paper-ripped-out-of-the-typewriter-and-tossed-into- the-trash-can, so to speak.

I always say that I’ve been writing ever since my parents gave me a pencil and paper. That might be a stretch, but as soon as I could put together little stories that’s what I did. I used to like to write poetry as well. Still do, on a good day. I put it all aside when it came time to raise a family and be my husband’s sidekick for his endeavors. A few years ago I went back to writing – or I’m trying to.

Photo by June Johnston
The first thing I noticed at the Wyoming Writers, Inc. conference (my first) last year in Riverton, was that, after the introduction, the first question everyone asked, and I mean everyone, was, “What do you write?” (Of course, writing was what we were there for.) Not do you have children, what is your favorite recipe – the type of questions that had been a part of my world for nearly sixty years.

“What do I write?” Thank goodness I had a couple of things to list! I write magazine articles and have a humor column in my local newspaper. Not much, but it’s better than saying, “Uh, nothing.”

I sort of whispered, “And a couple of novels.” One of those wound up in the shredder and I managed to lose the last half of the second one in the computer… I do amazing things with electronics.

When I was in the eighth grade I wrote an Easter play for my class. The teacher loved it (probably grateful for something different to do) and had the students perform it in the classroom. Thankfully I don’t remember much about the story except that it involved eggs, rabbits, and different couples pairing up. What I do remember is the horribly embarrassing closing line, as one boy points to the girl he has supposedly chosen for his partner and says, “Hare’s mine.”
Photo by June Johnston

Magazine articles are what I’ve had the most fun with so far. They have led me down some totally unexpected paths. I sat on the back porch of a billionaire’s home, sipping coffee, while I interviewed him for a story, and tried to pretend it was something I did every day.

For another article I drove up, up, up a winding forest road to an honest-to-goodness castle (it became a bit eerie when the spires appeared through the trees) and wondered what on earth I thought I was doing!

I did a story about a pianist who has played in Carnegie Hall, a couple of inventors, two country/western singers, an artist, several outstanding entrepreneurs, an eleven-year-old cowboy poet who has since taken that world by storm, a man who was 102 years old and still working, and more. These experiences have left me speechless at times – and terrified, lest I botch the project!

I am always grateful when there is an editor between me and publication. Grammar and punctuation are continually a problem, even though it was one of my “A” subjects in high school. I have found that it is much easier to learn (or re-learn) and retain information when you are young, middle-aged, or not quite old, but at seventy-six it is sometimes quite a challenge, although I realize we learn constantly at any age.

I have a lot of things I want to write before seventy-six morphs into ninety-six. Will I get them done? If I stay focused, write relentlessly, and skip the housework, I might.

Photo by June Johnston
I’m a little short on imagination though - my husband is my favorite muse. When I’m stumped and running out of time, I tell him, “Hey, sweetheart, I need to pick your brain for a while.” He is always cooperative and helpful, rattling off thoughts and plots that amaze me. He gives me a paragraph and says it is up to me to put the other fifty-thousand words with it!

If I were to advise a young woman who wants to write, I would encourage her to always carve out time for herself and truly learn the craft, even if it is with little children underfoot. Don’t allow the passion to escape. Scribble ideas on anything handy, from your grocery list to a Kindle. A voice recorder always in your pocket is a great way to do that, after all, people walk around everywhere now-a-days talking into a little box, so no one will think you’ve gone over the edge.

Don’t let anyone, anything, or any circumstance deter you from forging ahead to your goals. Then when the right time comes and someone says, “What do you write?” perhaps you’ll have a list of accomplishments to tell them long before you are seventy-six.

June Johnston is a freelance writer, photographer, blogger and columnist (Life in the Loony Lane runs in the Star Valley Independent). She married her high school sweetheart and gathered "material" for her writing by living a full life as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother (3 more on the way this summer!) and working as a bank teller, decorator and owner of an art gallery and frame shop. 

"Life is an exercise in expectation," June says, "One has to hang on tight, just waiting to see what each day will bring!"

You can visit June's blog at www.lifeintheloonylane.com.

7 comments:

  1. Nice guest blog, June. And your advice to set aside writing time is so important, at any age. And to still your worries about being 76 and getting old, here's something to think about. My first mentor, died a week ago yesterday at 104. She published three books of poetry after turning 100, 9 books of poetry since she started writing in her 60s. Her last three books are, I think, her best. She wrote every morning with her cup of coffee and computer screen with extra large print to compensate for her macular degeneration. She is my muse and inspiration.

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  2. I like your post's title. It reminds me of a radio advertisement I heard years ago for a type of tractor called a gater. The slogan was "Go for the gater. Gater done." I hope you have continued success in your writing endeavors and perhaps we'll meet at the next Wyoming Writers conference in Gillette.

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    1. Actually, the credit for the title goes to Lynn. I like it too. The "gater" one is clever as well.
      I don't think I'll make the Gillette conference - health issues. Maybe next year.
      June
      June

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  3. I'm sorry I've taken so long to respond - I just got my computer back after a week in the shop...
    Your friend was a remarkable woman! She set the standard high and left a rich heritage of discipline and inspiration. Thanks for sharing.
    June

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  4. If June feels woefully inadequate as a writer, she shouldn't. I thoroughly enjoyed this post about her writing life.

    June, I bet you could do a wonderful memoir of your experiences interviewing all the people you have.

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  5. I'm sorry to hear you won't be able to come to our conference this year, June. Take care.

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  6. Thank you so much, Deborah, for your kind words. I would never have thought of a memoir, but the experiences have truly been interesting so far.

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