The ability to tell a good story comes with age. Think back to the instances in your life when you heard a great story told in person. Who was speaking? The stories I remember with the most detail were told to me by my father, a middle aged businessman from Oregon. He could sit down with me and give a first hand account of American history from 1939 to the present. His take on it, anyway. He could draw from forty years of hard living. From being a teenage logger, where he saw fatal accidents, to his years as a go-go bar owner. What does this have to do with an essay contest about finding inspiration for writing? Most students at the community college I attend are young, so young that they don`t remember the pre 9/11 America. They`ve never had a job that they really needed. They lack perspective. Being inspired equates to knowing what to say at the right time. That comes with time in the saddle.
Let`s start with that idea that living through 9/11, or at least knowing the significance that event had on America is often lost on young people today. Perpetual warfare is now a part of these kids lives. They weren`t around in the eighties when joining the military was just a way to get to college or a job for someone desperate enough to need it.I fit into the second category when I joined the Navy in `99. In the eighties, the image of the US fighting man was Bill Murray in Stripes, now it`s Bradley Cooper in American Sniper. This is interesting and helpful to the writing process. America has changed and to understand that is a deep well of stories and insights to be told.
My second point is that most young people just haven`t seen the heartache involved with keeping a job that they needed. I mean really needed. I stated earlier that inspiration is knowing what to say when the need arises. That need is directly proportionate to the quality of the inspiration brought to bear to solve the problem at hand. For example, when I was called into my boss`s office to talk about me keeping my job in the current climate of downsizing, I found inspiration unheard of to the uninitiated young person. The thought of telling my wife that I had to look for work again brought forward a wellspring of valid and compelling arguments in defense of my job. Up through the fire is what another boss called it. These types of experiences come with time and have a real impact on the truthfulness of one`s storytelling.
I`ll finish with a few words about perspective. The web defines it first as the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth. Secondly it is defined someone`s viewpoint on a topic. The first definition is more interesting in this context. An artist attempting to render a building or structure in a believable fashion is akin to a good writer telling a good story. The lines drawn to show depth and height are like the words written to bring the story off the page and into the reader`s mind. Just like when you see a believable two dimensional drawing of a three dimensional shape, a good story is a high quality rendering in words of a complex idea. Good writing comes with the passage of time. Period.