Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,

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Lessons in writing and life

There was a writer named Charley Manos who for many years had a column on the back page of The Detroit News. His photo changed from time to time, but it usually showed him with a silly look on his face, wearing a silly hat, or displaying some other such signal that these were not the words of a fire-breathing muckraker. Attracted by those photos, I became a regular reader of his column at a fairly early age.

Manos often wrote about things that had happened to him, from getting his car repaired to going to restaurants, to people he met on the street. In a way, I suppose you could say he was writing a blog in newsprint. His columns were very often laugh-out-loud funny. I can’t quote any specific examples, but he had a gift for finding and describing the absurd, the fascinating, and the heart-warming.

At some point in my adolescence, I began to wonder at this. “How can so many funny things happen to one person?” went my thought process. “I live in the same city he does, and things this funny almost never happen to me! Is he just a very imaginative guy and he’s making up all of this?”

Now of course, that sort of creative journalism certainly does happen. A few “non-fiction” best-sellers have utilized such tactics. But as I went along, a realization began to dawn on me – the things that happened to Charley Manos weren’t, for the most part, much different from what happens to anyone who is engaged in society. The difference was that he found them humorous or fascinating in some way. I suppose another way of putting it would be to say that leading an interesting life is not something that is bestowed upon you by external forces; rather, it is something you bring to the world yourself.

I suspect that a lot of us learn that same lesson in our own individual way as we mature. For me, it was Charley Manos who pointed the way at a certain juncture. I’ve had stretches in my life when I’ve forgotten that simple lesson, but I’ve never lost it completely, and my creative and non-creative lives are richer for it.

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