Although I love to write, for most of my adult life I did not set pen to paper to express my thoughts and feelings. There was always some other job that needed my attention and my personal writing was never a priority. Family demands, career obligations, community commitments – all came first and trumped my desire to find time to sit down and write.
When I retired from teaching, I vowed to change all that. I did submit some articles to various magazine companies and even had a few published, but since I had no deadlines I was sporadic in my writing and lacked the necessary commitment. It was much too easy to be distracted by household chores, the internet, mindless TV shows or reading other people’s articles when I should have been writing my own.
Then a friend suggested that I should try to get a column in a weekly paper. That sounded like a feasible idea, but would anyone be interested in what I had to say? And could I fulfill such an obligation?
Well, I wouldn’t know if I didn’t try (isn’t that what I had always told my students and my own children). So I drafted a letter, included some samples of my writing and sent them off to several editors of local papers. Most responses were not very encouraging – they had too many columnists already or my work did not meet their needs, while some did not even have the courtesy to reply. But one paper, The Canora Courier, and its editor, Gary Lewchuk, liked my work, offered me some newspaper space and wondered when I could begin and how often I wanted to submit my work. Wow! I was in and I did a little happy dance as I planned my first column.
Not convinced that I had enough material on hand (or that my life was interesting enough), I opted to write a bi-weekly column. Stephen Leacock said, “Writing is no trouble. You just jot down ideas that occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself – it is the occurring which is difficult.”
So it was with me when I first began (okay, it still happens on a pretty regular basis), but now I had a deadline and a commitment to meet. I began to carry a notepad and pen with me wherever I went, jotting down any flashes of brilliance I might have.
After a year or so, Gary asked if I might consider writing on a weekly basis, so I stepped up my game and said I would give it my best shot. Then shortly after that my column was also published in the Kamsack Times and the Preeceville Progress. The positive response to my articles prompted me to start a blog which now has many followers from various places around the world.
But the bottom line is this – I had finally started doing something that I had only thought about for so many years. Because of Gary, writing has become a part of my daily life and I love it! It was Gary who helped me rekindle my love of language and my delight in playing with words to get the near-perfect phrase. (Nothing is ever perfect for writers.) And if I happened to miss something, I always knew he was an excellent proof reader and he would catch it.
Most of our communication was via email, but when we did meet up, our chats were usually about politics and writing. We would lament over the demise of the English language and we would chuckle over our pet peeves when it came to improper spelling, punctuation and usage.
I will be forever grateful to Gary for believing in me and for giving me an opportunity and a reason to write.
I’m going to miss him.
Gary Lewchuk passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on May 23, 2016.