Monday, August 17, 2009

My Dream Job

Do you still have a dream job? the kind of job that you'd love to be able to do someday because you really romanticize what the work would actually be like, and feel like there is an outside chance that you could actually do it? That job for me would be a writer. Except for academic writing, I would do just about any kind of writing. I wouldn't mind being a journalist, or a political commentator, or write fiction or non-fiction literature. I would do any of it. I would love to do all of it.

Every so often the bug hits me a little bit harder. This comes up semi-annually, and I wonder if I'm actually capable of it, of producing stuff that's worth reading and that leaves a lasting impression on people. I kind of envision it like in the movie Orange County where the kid picks up that book he finds on the beach and because of the book decides that he wants to dedicate himself to writing. To me, it just seems like the most amazing vehicle to connecting with people. It's because of smart thinking and good writing that the founding fathers were able to garner the needed support to ratify the constitution. Even when you're talking about the scriptures, it's because of the writings of the prophets that people can even learn about Jesus Christ and his gospel. It can affect you on so many levels. I just love it.

I think what I'm really enamored with when it comes to writing is the story-telling aspect. There is a story to every person and event if you can just find the right angle, it just requires a nose for what's interesting and then knowing how to tell it. This is probably why I love This American Life so much. In my own life, I think Greg and Dave are my favorite story-tellers.

I just finished reading Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks, the author of The Notebook, A Walk To Remember, and Message In A Bottle. Over the last few years I've been developing a taste for biographies, so when I am looking for a book I'll often start searching around the biography section and just start reading the first few pages of ones that look interesting to me. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and I think that's what makes biographies so great. Real people sometimes do unbelievable things, and it's really great to learn about those things.

I really loved the book. You know how you read critical reviews included on the book cover, and you don't really think anything of it? There was one that seemed so cliche that I didn't even consider it, which said, "the sweet and bitter, it's all here. You will laugh and you will cry," but after having read the book, I couldn't think of a more apt description. I think it's hard for humor to come across in writing because you not only have to have a good sense of what's funny, but you have to be so succinct in the delivery, but there were several times while reading when I marveled at how funny he is. And there are a few moments that are just so heart-wrenching that I really did tear up, and I never really feel that way when reading books. Maybe in movies, but not when I'm reading, because his stories are especially compelling. I think my favorite thing about the book is just realizing what an impressive man Nicholas Sparks is, how good to the core he is, and the sweetness of the relationships that exist between himself and his family. It's just really touching.

There are two parts that I want to include here. This first one is about his first experience writing a book.
The next morning, I sat down at my dad's typewriter, rolled in the first sheet of paper, and began to write. I chose horror as a genre and conjured up a character who caused accidental death wherever he went. Six weeks and nearly three hundred pages later, after writing six or seven hours a day, I'd finished. To this day, I can remember typing that final sentence, and I don't know that I'd ever felt a higher sense of accomplishment with anything I'd done in my entire life.

The only problem was the book. It was terrible and I knew it. It was atrocious in every sense of the word, but in the end, what did it matter? I didn't intend for it to be published; I'd written it to see if I could. Even then, I knew there was a big difference between starting a novel and actually finishing one. Even more surprising, I found that I'd actually enjoyed the process.

I was nineteen years old and had become an accidental author. It's funny the way things happen in life.
I think what I like so much about that part is if I ever do end up writing a book, I think it will unfold in a very similar way. It's kind of like how I decided and eventually ran a marathon; I'll play with the idea in my head for a long time, something will make me realize that it's probably a little bit easier to do and more realistic than I had first expected, and then I'll just sit down and start figuring out how to make it happen.

The second excerpt is when they finally had exhausted all their options for treating his sister's cancer.
At the end of the consultation, Micah (the oldest brother) said good-bye to the doctor. He held my sister's arm so she wouldn't fall, and led her outside.

They sat on the steps outside the memorial complex. The day was cool, but the sky was blue and clear. On the sidewalks, people passed by, without a second glance. Cars rolled by steadily, and in the distance one or two of them honked their horns. Everywhere else, life was going on as normal, but for Micah, nothing seemed normal at all.

Like me, Micah was exhausted. Yes, he knew it would come to this. We all knew it would come to this. Yet, just as well had at our mother's bedside, we'd never stopped wishing and praying for a miracle. There was no logical reason to expect one, but Dana was our sister and we loved her. It was the only thing we could do.

My sister said nothing. Her left eye drooped and a bit of saliva leaked from her mouth. She couldn't feel it, didn't even know it was there. Micah gently wiped her mouth.

"Hey sweetie," he said.

"Hey," my sister answered quietly. It was no longer her voice; her words sounded different now, like someone mumbling in her sleep.

Micah slipped his arm around her. "Do you understand what the doctor was saying?"

Dana looked at him, moving her head slowly. It seemed to be everything she could do to remember.

"No...more...meds?" she finally asked. The words were soft, almost too low to hear.

"Yeah, sweetie, that's right. No more medicine. You're done with all that."

My sister stared at him, trying to follow his words. Her expression saddened, half of her mouth forming a frown.

"So that's it?"

Micah's eyes immediately welled with tears. It was her way of asking Micah if she was really going to die.

"Yeah, sweetie, that's it," he whispered.

He pulled her close, kissed the top of her head, and Dana leaned into his chest.

And for the first time since she'd been diagnosed with the tumor, my little sister began to cry.
Doesn't it just break your heart? The only experience I have had with death is when a neighbor of mine passed away when I was about 13 years old. I wasn't even close with her at all, and my mom brought it up casually in a conversation because it actually happened a year or two before she mentioned it, after they had already moved away. I started crying immediately. My mom brought it up so nonchalantly that it hurt me that she didn't speak of it more reverently, and that's when she said it happened a few years earlier. My other experiences are limited to dreams that I've had, and although completely imagined, the feelings were nonetheless as vivid as anything that I've experienced while awake, but with the benefit of knowing that none of it actually happened. I just can't imagine something more sad than having to dealing with death.

There you go.

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