Sunday, June 17, 2007

No Biggie

The past few times I have seen Gregg Newman, he has been remarkably happy, a man doing no easy thing professionally, but clearly enjoying it and deriving satisfaction from it.

With the exception of the two times I saw him in his office and the two additional times when I saw him by accident at local restaurants or the dry cleaner/laundry we both use, I see him mornings at Peet's Coffee and Tea, where we each brave the lines for our lattes. This pattern probably has no significance for you or, at least, not the significance it has for me. I could have continued to see him in his office, beginning about three years ago. In fact, during those two visits to his office, I'd allowed that if I were going to see anyone who did what Gregg Newman does, I would see him.

It is my pleasure to introduce him as "the man who is not my oncologist but who would be if I were going to have an oncologist."

It is my pleasure not to have need of an oncologist, a greater pleasure to have my decision not to have an oncologist validated over these years with negative results on various tests that he and Alex Koper consider sufficient cause for my having avoided chemotherapy. Don't worry; I won't show you my scar (a splendid example of Alex Koper's art, which has begun to fade to the point where you'd have to be looking for it in order to see it), or recite the litany of why I have a scar in the first place. Everybody has scars. Some are emotional, some not. Trying not to make it a biggie. Rather I will recount how the sight of Gregg Newman being happy doing the oncological work he does has a positive effect on me.

Brace yourself for a reach of a comparison--but writers do with ideas and prose what Evel Knievel did with opportunity. He took chances.

Every year at this time, it falls to my lot to read a number of writings from those who are about to attend the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference. Every year at this time, as the Marine Layer advances from the Pacific to cloak Santa Barbara in a shroud of heaviness, many of the readings I do remind me, probably of myself at earlier times in my writing arc, and as well they remind me of the work I have cut out for me, which is, after all, why I am there.

Seeing Gregg Newman, who couldn't stand the politics of teaching and quit, returned to school, and became a doctor--and now exudes a satisfaction, gives me pause to think. Maybe I can supply some program of therapy for these wannabes that will give some positive hope to their writing life. Maybe by my example, one or two will chose not to give up or in or whatever preposition seems relevant at the time.

Since one of the essentials of fiction is the need to forget about trying to describe and focus on ways to evoke the vital information, I cannot tell any of them about this, about Gregg Newman or Alex Koper and least of all me. Show--don't tell.

Okay, you guys, let's start with who you are and what makes you want to do this thing we call writing, and what you bring to it. Empty all your pockets because we're going to check all the possibilities of finding the details that make you special...


Anonymous said...

I hope you'll post a progress report on the attendees at the Writer's Conference and how they responded to your example.

lowenkopf said...

Count on it...and thanks for hoping.