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By Steve Berger

It’s been a very interesting “writer’s” week. A potential agent for the novel I finished recently asked for a one-page synopsis, the manuscript and my bio. Also, seemly unrelated, I needed to clear space in the file drawers for my wife’s work.

The first exercise underscores the way I write. Indeed the way I have always written. That is, I don’t use outlines, though I do jot down copious notes along the way––most of which don’t make the final edit. This is because every time I have ever started to write an outline, I just cut loose and launch into the magazine article, newspaper column, internet piece, corporate propaganda, speech or novel that I am going to write.

This brings me to the other, apparently non-writing-related activity of the week. Clearing out file space for my wife, I ran across more than a dozen of my early works. Short stories, second-rate poetry, notes and other assorted tracks of my lifelong desire to write that I can’t part with. I thought about a professor I had in college who, very helpfully for most, told us we needed to submit an outline of our paper the week before it was due. Given my proclivity to just launch into my work, I had to write my paper first, then write the outline––not unlike writing a one-page synopsis of a 268-page thriller, tough gig.

Running across those old pieces reminded me of the one that got away. The first “published” piece I ever wrote. By published, I mean that, considering it was grade school, it got wide distribution. Sometime prior to National Brotherhood Week––I’m dating myself––my fifth grade teacher had us write a story or poem about the meaning of the coming event. Though I hadn’t heard the aphorism at that time, I instinctively went on to write what I knew. A story about a Mexican kid––I’m dating myself again––in my neighborhood named Ronnie. How the neighbors didn’t want him or his family living in our white, middle-class neighborhood in Los Angeles. But Ronnie had at least one good friend, me.

Though I don’t remember anything else about the story––the necessary points of conflict, the climax, the denouement––I do remember the teacher having us read our work to the class. And then the class voted on the seven best. Amazingly, my little story was one of them. We then went on a tour of the school reciting our poetry and reading our stories to other classes, and finally onto a performance before the PTA––you could almost hear the knees clattering.

What this trip down memory lane revealed was that contrary to my belief that I don’t have a single, sustained passion; I do. Something uncontrollable and set deep in my genes drives me to write. Whether it’s ad copy, e-mail to a friend or a novel, I very methodically set aside the time, do my research, consider what I want to say and, though I rarely if ever make a note––or god forbid an outline––then write it. Then proof it, tweak and correct it and, if time allows, let it sit and perk, read it again, tweak and correct it again, and then send it out with the hope it will be well received.


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