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By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
Guilt can be a curious thing.
It can burn white-hot from the very beginning, or lie dormant for years in a far corner of your soul.
I was reminded of that recently when a former college teacher passed away. The lessons of that long-ago semester swirled in me like ghosts which is fitting, I guess, since the teacher was storyteller Glen Grant.
His passing was a catalyst for thoughts I had not expected.
In 1979, I was a student in an American studies class Grant taught. With a flourish that became his trademark, and a bottle of Glen Grant whiskey in one hand, Grant dressed in period costumes and brought eccentric characters to life. They were romantic, tragic, insightful.
We students were spellbound. I was in awe of how he wove the threads of history into the cloth of story.
But Grant took it a step further.
He lived what he taught. The world was full of experiences waiting to be felt, and he urged us to take chances.
Ignore the naysayers, he would say:
Ignore your own self-doubt.
For a wannabe writer, that meant it was necessary to put words to paper. To find the story and tell it.
I thought that would be so cool.
You had to taste life before you could write about it. For us, that meant drinking beer with our favorite teacher. They were raucous occasions. We laughed and we drank and we howled at convention.
Some in our group found their muse. Not me. I did more tasting than typing. I figured there was lots of time for the latter a whole lifetime.
When I did write something a graduate thesis, definitely not the Great American Novel I was eager to show it to Grant.
After reading it, he smiled politely if you knew him, you know that smile and told me I had missed the point.
I bit my lip to hide my disappointment.
I don't remember if I told Grant that I would get it right, but it was a promise I made to myself. I vowed I would write something important and redeem myself.
There was plenty of time, I figured.
Then I got a job.
To be sure, life doesn't end with work, but work has a way of sucking the energy out of your day.
The first casualty is creativity. I've lost count of the days I've driven home spinning a yarn in my head and been too tired or too busy or too something to work on it.
Whenever my friends e-mailed me about their projects and applauded me for writing every day at lunch, I never had the guts to tell them that had lasted only a week.
My family took priority, a house and yard always needed tending, and if I had a break, I went surfing.
When I read Grant's obituary, I thought of the stories he had written and told, and my awe was renewed.
But for days, I was troubled by something else I could not explain.
It was guilt. All that time I had counted on had passed me by, unused. I had not written any great tales.
Sure, I could start now, draw upon my life at midpoint. But I won't and I know it.
If the novel is not the story I'm meant to tell, then it's time to bite my lip and move on.
It is a dark and painful realization.
Reach Mike Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8012.