The other night my brother, Jay, and I were out to dinner with his wife and another friend. Jay and I were sitting next to each other and my friend said it was funny to watch us with our synchronized big smiles, expressiveness, and gesticulating.
We were talking about writing, something neither of us do professionally. My brother is a marketing guru and I’m an engineer/computer consultant. But we’ve both adopted writing as a passion. Jay writes a marketing newsletter called Curious About Marketing on Substack explaining interesting stories about companies and their marketing to shine some light on what works. (Perhaps one day we’ll get Jay to come on here and write about why he picked Substack). And I write essays here and on my other blogs about the mysteries of life, love, and growing up.
What interests me is if any part of this passion is inherited. Our dad, a Presbyterian pastor for 40 years, wrote sermons, speeches, meditative pieces for daily reflection, and maybe even a few jokes. So I’ve chronicled some of the ways that I think we can pass down our words.
Love of Language
Both of my parents were interested in language. I’d say that I got the majority of my sense of the rules of speech from my mother, who is incredibly adept in the proper use of the English language. Any shortcomings I have in that department are because I rely on my gut instead of looking it up.
Fortunately, my mom has also influenced the next generation of our family so her grandchildren have also benefited from her expertise. If I had to pick a word for my mom, in the spirit of my language associations that I wrote about in My Love Affair With Words, I’d pick precise.
Use of Metaphor
I think it’s safe to say that my dad spent a lot of time studying parables, poems, stories, and letters. While that’s an oversimplification of what my dad gleaned from the Bible, I think at least format-wise, much of the depth came delivered in those packages. Then he was effective as a writer and speaker because he’d rewrap it and pass it on.
One of the goals at the forefront on my dad’s writing was to make things portable for others; to deliver a sermon that people could take with them into their week. Another metaphor for how writing can stick with us.
So it’s not a surprise for me that I find myself thinking in terms of metaphors. I’m not very literal in my view of life, even though as an engineer I love equations and formulas. When I think about my dad, I remember things he told me like when our vertical relationship [with God or a Higher Power] is sound, it supports all our horizontal relationships.
Search for Meaning
I can attest first hand that wisdom isn’t inherited and prove it to you with a long list of stupid stuff I’ve done. But I did inherit the desire to make meaning from my messes.
Give me anything that goes wrong in a day, like a parking spot snagged by another car, and my brain works to find the meaning – that I get to have a longer walk. This is vintage Dick Leon at play in my head.
Any time I’m writing, I’m searching for that bigger picture meaning. It’s why writing is therapeutic for me. It’s also why I think I can only write in the morning as I explained in the When I Write post – because I can’t connect the meaning dots when I’m tired.
And my brother is searching for the meaning behind the marketing stories he unveils. It goes beyond the numbers, but digging into why a marketing strategy worked or didn’t work in order to glean what is portable to our own efforts to sell something.
Wrapping It Up
So there are my suggested ways that we pass writing on to others, delivered in three points. When my dad studied homiletics, the art of preaching, at Princeton Theological Seminary, he told me that one of the guidelines was to have three points in a sermon. I find myself doing the same thing in my writing. Endless Weekend and I were trying to figure out why three’s a magic number and one of the explanations that I found was that three is the smallest number that you can have to make a pattern. It’s also a number that is portable.
Of course, this is all anecdotal – which feels like the perfect kind of evidence for a post about whether writing is inheritable. There is one thing I’m pretty certain of though – we all benefit from knowing or being related to a good communicator, one who regularly puts it all out there!
I’d love for you to check out and follow my latest project – The Heart of the Matter. It’s a blog of fantastic writers and thinkers delving into what matters in life (and also what doesn’t). You can find it at https://sharingtheheartofthematter.com
For most posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com You can also by my book about my father on Amazon: Finding My Father’s Faith
And if you want to follow me, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon
(featured photo from Pexels)