My Medium

#Art

Tue, Feb 1st, 2005 04:00 by Brian Newman ARTICLE

It is a painful memory, and so I am very glad the sands of time have worn most of it away. I was a young kid, near death. Trapped in bed, with a hacking cough that often turned bloody. My memory is off that never ending cough, of being so tired, so worn out, that I would have welcomed any release.

Even Death.

But Death passed me by. Slowly, ever so slowly, I recovered. I got better and I went back to doing kid's things, including going back to school. I had missed my 'phonics'. To this day I am a terrible speller because of that. Other languages are impossible, I can hardly pronounce some English words. My reading was so bad that a later teacher wanted to hold me back a grade. Unknown to me, my Mother made a deal with that teacher. If I would be given a pass, so that I could stay with my friends, my Mother promised she would work on my reading all that summer vacation.

I have two memories of that. The first is looking out the window, seeing the sun brightly shining with the terrible knowledge that those friends were out there somewhere, having fun. And I was sitting at this table with a pile of books that never seemed to end, under strict orders to read. And read I did.

Hesitating and stumbling over each word, hating every moment of it. The second memory comes from the end of that summer. It was the strangest thing. I had indeed learned to read. That's normal. Whatever you practice you get good at. The strange thing was that now, I loved reading. I read for fun, I read without being asked to read. Reading was like going outside to play, only the books lead to different worlds. My spelling never got better, it was still somewhere on the far side of one of those other worlds.

When you read, you discover good books, and bad. Some click something within you and others just don't. As you read you learn the good and the bad. I'll bet every reader has the same thought, at some time: I could have told that story better.

Years later I recall having that thought. I had read some cheesy short story and I knew why it was bad, and how it could be fixed. I'll say this the only way I can. I heard a Voice in my head. Just as I was saying to myself: "Self, I could tell that story better." I heard a gentle Voice say: "Yes, you can." And the needed corrections came to me. To be honest, that scared me. I'm not use to hearing Voices, with or without a Capital letter. So I did what every modern civilized person does when something scares them. I ignored it.

The years went by, as they always do. Occasionally I would read something bad, and occasionally I would hear that Voice again. It was a literal voice, telling me how to correct what I had just read. I was no longer scared of it, but I certainly never mentioned hearing Voices to anyone! Some things are best left unsaid.

Wouldn't you know it, I was asked one day, to write a story. A delightful lady had some sort of Web Site and she needed 'content'. I remember that word. I thought little about writing a story, that should be a piece of cake, right?

Only when I sat down to do it, nothing came. No thoughts, no ideas, no nothing. I called up the lady, and said I was having problems. She gave me some simple advice. "Write what you know." she said. Good advice! But it didn't work for me. Nothing seemed to flow. So I decided to ask another expert. I spoke, out loud, to my mysterious 'Voice', and asked for help with writing a story.

It worked, sort of. Instantly I got an idea. No, not about the story, but about how to write that story. The idea was to close my eyes, pen in hand, and just write whatever came to me, on a piece of paper. So that is exactly what I did. Believe me, it is not as easy as it sounds! My eyes are closed, I feel the pen slip off of the paper, and when I move my hand back, I'm not sure if I am writing overtop of the words I had just put down. No idea of the size of my words, the readability of my writing. I guess I was so focused on the difficulties that I paid absolutely no attention to the words. When I got to the bottom of the page, I opened up my eyes, and there it was. I'm still not sure what it means, if there is more to come, or what I should now do. But at least I had some words. Maybe you can help me out?

If this below means anything to you, can you fill me in? The words I had on the page were:

The Medium is the Message.

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