As a child, a pencil, a pen, or a book were nothing more to me than weapons to hurl at my siblings to antagonize them and get a rise out of my parents. The only computers back then were in bunkers and owned by the US Government. To us, computers were sci-fi phantasms and children with overactive imaginative brains (like me) dreamed that we were top-secret operatives of the government and we were covertly searching for the world’s computer hiding deep under the earth’s. The Super-Computers that would one day rule mankind were ours to search and destroy, least they destroy us first.
I recall my first positive experience with writing. I was in Junior High School. My English Professor, Dr. Kuzner, handed out a class assignment. The task; write about anything you desire, but it must be something you care about, something that gets you going more than anything else in the world. I don’t recall what I wrote about, but I do recall Dr. Kuzner asking me to stay behind after class the day after he returned our essays to us.
Dr. Kuzner was a tiny thin book-wormish man. He wore glasses and had a pale bleached complexion. He always had one of those white pocket protectors in his shirt pocket and a pencil, a red pen, and a black pen. A very meek mild-mannered man, whose son also attended the same Junior High School. I always thought; How crappy that must be, to go to school where your dad works.
Dr. Kuzner said, “Dane, about the essay you turned in. You are an exceptional writer. You really have passion and it comes through in your writing. You should consider writing more and I would like to work with you, just to get some of the basics and the mechanics straightened out.”
I was floored. In all the years I attended school I never had a single teacher say one positive thing about me, just the opposite. Every teacher I ever had couldn’t wait to get rid of me and quite frankly, the feeling was mutual.
To this very day, I regret not taking Dr. Kuzner up on his offer. However, over several years, when I would write, whether it were a personal letter, a business letter, messing around with a book review or the like, people would always remark about how my writing “captivated” them.
The big decision to become a writer and forsake a life of physical labor and regular paychecks came when a work related accident rendered me disabled. The doctors said I would never walk properly again, and with a number of health issues; hearing loss, coronary disease, spinal arthritis, nerve damage, diabetes, hypertension, and issues with cholesterol and allergies, heading back to construction work and a security position that required certain physical would not have been a wise decision.
I was advised by my physicians to, “… go on disability and bide your time.” I would not accept those terms. I set up a meeting with the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services. I spent several days testing and when the exams concluded I scored in the 99th percentile for writing and the 97th percentile for teaching. My scores were so impressive I was offered a grant to attend college and earn a degree.
I earned degrees in English (Creative Writing) and Philosophy. The rest is history. I love writing. To know my words hold the power to inspire, educate, comfort, and change lives and history is the greatest honor I have ever known.
To know I am the first in my family (ever) at the ripe young age of 53 to graduate college, is another great accomplishment. With the responsibilities I have been given as a writer, I hope to inspire generations to come.
As a writer, I have been entrusted with the most powerful thing known to humanity, the power of the written word. I aim to embrace, appreciate, and conduct my position as a writer in the most honorable, virtuous, and uplifting way – the only way I know how, honestly and without shame!