QUIET DESPERATION

New direction is one for the book

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Author Fran Lebowitz said, "Having been unpopular in high school is not just cause for book publications."

What does she know?

I certainly qualify. Under my yearbook picture it said, "Identity unknown. May have been on track team."

I am going to ignore Lebowitz. I'll get to that.

I try my best to write well. And I am not content to keep it to myself by, for example, writing a journal, which many artists do.

A couple of my professors required us to keep journals, and then when I became a professor I thought it would be a great assignment as well.

Until I started to read some of them.

When they stayed with art, they were fine. But most of them wandered into some very private woods, where Trouble and Temptation were around every elm.

You may want to know what a college student thinks or does when she is not working on her drawing assignments, but not me.

I read things that no one but a priest, a rabbi, or a minister should ever hear about.

Which reminds me of a joke. Next time.

At some point, you are told that you are or you are not a good writer. You have to be very mindful whom you listen to.

I began to get compliments in the third grade, when I wrote my class's mission statement, which focused on recess, eraser tag, and chocolate milk.

I was a loner in college. A loner sometimes looks for approval, however, which is one of our contradictions.

You can write something that outshines your actual personality, and get the attention you are looking for.

By reading this column, you might have the impression that I am a worldly, imposing, and distinguished man.

The truth is I haven't been anywhere, and I resemble Burl Ives wearing unzipped pants.

My painting career, I've decided, is winding down.

Something will have to take its place. You know? Idle hands?

I thought about opening a butterfly pavilion, until someone told me there already is one in Westminster.

I never learned carpentry, plumbing, or cooking.

But I can write.

I started to look at my options, and I wandered over to UCLA's Extension School, and looked at their online classes for writers.

The first thing that caught my eye was "Beginning Writing for the Half Hour Situation Comedy."

All past and current situation comedies are awful, and I didn't want to add to the pollution.

Long story short, I enrolled in "Novel Writing I."

The course runs from April to June, and, no, we are not required to write a novel in two months.

We are required to write the first chapter of a novel, or about 3,500 words.

That may sound like a lot of words, but it's only about the length of six or seven columns.

I'll also be required to read and critique my classmates' chapters, and to respond with measured discretion, even if something like "Shameless Honeymoon" comes my way.

Have you been to a bookstore lately? The shelves are already full.

Artists and writers are followed by a persistent little dog named Ego. Without that little dog, you may as well go home.

I will keep you updated.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net. 

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