A good school prepares students for a future they can’t yet imagine. Like most eighteen-year-olds, I arrived at California Baptist College, now California Baptist University, full of youthful energy and concrete belief that I already knew everything. I knew what I liked and what I didn’t. Looking back at the years leading up to college I can construct a list of studies I was certain I would never use:
- History. Better to focus on the future.
- Typing. I learned on an old Underwood.
- English. I could speak English gooder than most.
- Speech. In college I hated speech class so much that, after calculating that I had earned enough points to pass, I skipped the final.
I’ve been out of college for a few years now—okay, a lot of decades—and my view of that list has changed:
- History. My last book and the one coming out in January are history based.
- Typing. I type by the hour now and have published something like 4 million words over 43 books and other works.
- English. Turns out publishers like works that are close enough to English as to be readable.
- Speech. Over two decades behind a pulpit preaching and teaching at least three times a week (sometimes five times a week) comes to well over 3000 public presentations.
It seems that I wasn’t as smart in reality as I was in my mind. I may have been focused on the future but I had no idea where I was headed.
"I may have been focused on the future but I had no idea where I was headed."
Many people have the same story. They think life will go one way, then it makes a sharp right turn, and it does that more than once.
When I first thought of writing, I tried my hand at short stories. Didn’t sell one of them. Not one. I then said, “Nonfiction. That’s meaningful writing. I’ll write nonfiction works.” And I did. Mostly tiny book reviews and a few articles in periodicals most of which don’t exist anymore. I focused on nonfiction books but couldn’t pull it off. Then, while visiting Children’s Hospital in San Diego to visit a family whose child had fallen out of a slow moving car (the tyke was fine but I doubt the parents were ever the same) an idea came to me—an idea for a novel.
I resisted the siren song of the story but, as most novelist know, some stories will not be denied. That was almost 25 years ago. Twenty years ago By My Hands was published by Victor Books. I’ve been writing books, fiction and nonfiction, ever since. (I will be re-releasing that work later this month.)
The most useful thing I learned in school was this: I don’t know what I’ll be doing in the future. What I dislike now may be my passion in the years ahead. And that, my friends, is where the adventure waits.
The future twists and turns. In fact, when I wrote the title to this post I had a very different topic in mind, then my fingers took over.
Alton Gansky is a novelist and nonfiction writer who can’t make up his mind about the future but can make a good cup of coffee. www.altongansky.com ,@altongansky. Look for the twentieth anniversary re-release of his first novel By My Hands.