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Evangelist for Writing

John W. Pinkerton


“The longer I have my website magazine, oldartguy.com, the more I become an evangelist for folks to write their own essays or poems or short stories or bumper stickers, etc.  After bumping into walls for over a half century, I think I have, at last, found my calling.”

That’s the way I began this essay when I first wrote it about a month ago.  Sitting on my front porch at about 5:30 this morning, I began to think about the essay and had a nagging question mark about the thought that I had become “an evangelist for folks to write.”

I try to be honest in my writing.  Perhaps my “evangelism” was based on my own self-interest.  Perhaps I’m just motivated by the need for written material for oldartguy.com.  Nothing wrong with that, but after some serious thought on the subject, I began to suspect my motivation goes beyond my needs.  Writing is certainly not the cure for cancer, but I sincerely think the practice makes people, if not better people, at least better thinkers.  Lord knows we need all of these we can muster.

So my evangelism is based on two parts.  As I’ve confessed, the first is obvious: I need essays and short stories and poems for my online magazine.  The second part is the opportunity to see the joy expressed by folks when they begin to write.  Younger folks typically express the reward for writing to be “fun”: older folks say it’s “cathartic.”

I didn’t pursue writing until after I retired and even then it was an extension of a joke that I sought to play upon my pallbearers.  My hope was to have published a little book of essays for my pallbearers so that I’d have the last word and they perhaps could get a laugh from them.  Of course, after I “accidentally” got a website, I said to heck with the pallbearers and began publishing the essays on the website.

So with a combination of the need for writing for the website and a sincere feeling that writing actually helps folks, I have become relentless once the scent of a potential author is in my nostrils.

One young lady told me she and her mother wrote poetry when she was just a girl; the scent wafted into my nasal passages; each month for well over a year, I have sent her an email reminding her that I’m expecting a bundle of poems from her any day now.  She is always courteous in her replies and seems to think my emails are amusing but, so far, no bundle, but I suspect I’ll receive her poetry any day now.  In fact, the other day, I received the following email from her, “Howdy there!  Believe it or not---I have actually written a poem to submit.  I wrote it last month but feel like I have some finishing touches to make!”

Another example of my persistence is the following.  I recently found, via the internet, a lady with whom I once taught.  She may have been the smartest person I’ve ever known.  We taught together in Somerville for a couple of years, and then she moved on to bigger and better things.  Currently she’s an assistant principal in a faraway state.  Anyway, I located her and sent her an email telling her about my online magazine, and she confessed that she writes stories for her children.  The scent!  Each month I send her a fresh email encouraging her to send me her tales.  Inevitably, she will.

I don’t get out much but when I do, I’m alert to possible writers.

While waiting in the lobby of a hospital while my wife was having her broken foot operated on, bless her heart, I began a casual conversation with an older gentleman who was volunteering as a greeter.  After a few minutes of casual conversation, he revealed he was a columnist for the local newspaper.  Now each Monday I receive a copy of his column for that week to include on the site. 

Another chance encounter with a writer occurred at my mother’s nursing home.  I was having a casual chat with an interim director of the home when he revealed that he had written poetry since he was a youth.  Another chance encounter bore fruit .

I have several ex-students of Linda’s and mine who have decided to write for the site.  Some have showed up via email and basically said, “Hey, what about me?”  Others show up via email complimenting the site but never mentioning that they would like to write for the site, but once I suggest to them that they might wish to write for the site, most soon send me an essay or a poem.   Others have simply sent me finished works without making any inquiries as to whether I wanted them or not.  I have no complaints.

A few of the folks who contribute essays to the site are old teaching colleagues who moved on years ago to different venues. I guess the same reason that we were friends is the reason I like their essays, their good sense and sense of humor.

I can’t help myself; any time I meet someone new to me, I size them up as potential authors.  It’s amazing how many folks I find who wrote at one time in the past and some were actually published authors, and whether they realized it or not, were waiting on someone to encourage them to return.  The other day I met a chaplin who, years ago, had a book published.  He’s about to share some of his writing with oldartguy.com.

I’ve also found authors among the artists I know.  These are usually hard sales because they already express themselves through art, but it’s not impossible to convince them to write.  One essay by an artist grew from an email that she sent to her friends about an elderly artist friend who had recently passed away.  I recognized it as a complete essay, not just an email.

A couple of wonderful writers have come to the site through a mutual friend.  One was a published poet who through the encouragement of a friend contacted me.  The best gift one can give me is to encourage someone they know to consider writing for oldartguy.com. 

Another published poet came to the site via a business card.  I ran across the card in my disorganized filing system, and said, “Hmm.”  He soon was publishing on the site.

Often when I encourage folks to write for oldartguy.com, they will reply, “I’m not a writer.”  Well, I agree: you’re not until…you are.