Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

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The Making of a Writer, part 1

Posted by Lisa Lickel on August 13, 2012

The Making of a Writer – Part I

Tom Blubaugh

Lisa’s note: We welcome veteran author Tom Blubaugh to our Reflections team. May you learn and grow and be blessed by his wisdom.

I have been writing for nearly as long as I can remember. In fact, I remember trying to learn penmanship, which is what we called writing back in the 1950s. We used fountain pens. I remember blobs of ink, ink stains on shirt pockets and inkbottles. Those items I used back then are collectibles now. I wondered if I would ever get the hang of penmanship.

My first real experience with writing came when I was fourteen. I was bashful, so if I wanted to tell a girl I cared about her, I would write a poem. I don’t remember what I wrote, but it did impress these young women.

I remember a day in 1956—I was sitting in homeroom with an Elvis Presley magazine tucked inside my geography book. Rock and roll and basketball magazines plus comic books were the only reading I did back in those days. I do not recall being encouraged to read except by my English teachers. When I had to write a book report, I read just enough to skate by. Today parents are encouraged to read to their children and support their children in developing reading habits. It was not so in my childhood or at least not in my home.

Every time I read a comic book, I would find an ad in the back enticing me to turn my poetry into lyrics for songs. Oh, how I wanted to send my love poems to those companies, but they wanted money. The only money I had was two cents for every discarded pop bottle I found as I walked home from school.

I don’t remember having a vision to be a writer. It just seemed to be something inside me that I did. In high school, I ran into a major roadblock. Without going into detail—well, let’s just say I was on the wild side. English teachers and I did not see eye to eye on grammar and punctuation. I was rebellious toward authority and I wanted to know whom these people were that wrote all the rules and what gave them the right. I before e except after c. What was that about anyway? I don’t know how I passed their classes. I think they passed me to get me out of their classes. They wouldn’t do that—would they?

After four years in the navy, I began taking college classes at night. I took courses as I needed them to advance in my career of business management. About 1966 I took a course in creative writing. The professor was a new graduate from Kansas University. He made a statement one evening that changed my life. He said, “If you have to say, I ain’t never had any bananas and I ain’t gonna have none never ever to get your meaning across, this is communicating.” I thought where have you been all my life. I knew I could not use that language in a business letter, but it somehow opened my mind to creative writing.

Over the next few years, I wrote some articles for a denominational magazine and later for some business publications. In 1973, I wrote a book about my ministry of helping churches organize bus ministries to bring children to church when their parents didn’t attend. In reality, it was a combining of two term papers. This was pre computers and backup was what you did with a car in reverse. I had a friend that worked for the same denominational magazine that published my writing. I took a bus to Nashville and hand delivered the manuscript to him and asked him to publish it. After a few months of not hearing from him, I found out he had misplaced it and he did not find it for a year. It showed up in the mail with a note that said not interested or similar wording. I self-published Behind the Scenes on the Bus Ministry in 1974.

4 Responses to “The Making of a Writer, part 1”

  1. I loved hearing more about you, Tom, and I would have really liked your creative writing professor! Thanks for sharing some of your background with us and I look forward to learning more!

  2. I enjoyed hearing some of your childhood and young adult adventures with creative writing. I used to love to write poetry and during the late 1960’s and early ’70’s I put some of mine to music (guitar or organ). Your journey to publication is typical for many authors who have a passion to share their work with those who would benefit from it most. I look forward to reading Part 2 of your interview.

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