6.20.2006

an assignment for class: write a monologue or dialogue from a future perspective examining what you want your writing to accomplish. mine is a "speech" of sorts that I would give at a retirement party or perhaps late birthday.

Contemplation on my accomplishments as a writer or
Speaking is not my forte: A reflective incantation

Daniel Thomas Richards

You’ll have to excuse me if I seem awestruck. My knees are shaking a bit and my clammy palms are quickly developing pearls. Having to face my audience is quite a novel concept for me, and I’m admittedly frightened, if not more so amazed, I suppose, as I look out at an audience of eyes, hundreds literally focused here ... on me—a “bitter” old man now, as my ideological opponents would describe me, but once a young man—let’s be fair: a bitter young man—from a town of fewer people than in this room and combined age four times as great. Given any balmy summer day of my childhood, infinite time to ponder and reflect, I would never have conjured this image, this room, your eyes. Given all the time I spent in college sitting in my room waiting for someone to call or e-mail, wanting nothing but relief from the tedium at hand, I cannot imagine having guessed or supposed this moment or any of the great moments in my life. Yet, I stand here, and you sit in anticipation of a speech—an odd request, don’t you think, for a man who spent his existence writing? Now you ask that I orally deliver what is written on this page, a reflective incantation of my accomplishments as a writer. Given that the exits are sealed and the waiter has yet to bring me dessert, I suppose that I can indulge your inquiry and speculate on what my writing has accomplished if only for a moment. I shall begin with praise:

We have friends to remind us of our flaws, to color between the lines of our lives with the crayons we don't, and never will, own, to fill the gaps in our picture. Our purpose, in sharing the colors, is to develop a completeness unattainable with limited shades, a sense of vivid fullness impossibly boring in one hue, to create a finished project—our finished project—: our spectrum. Without my friends, I could not have taken that first risk, forged my first connection with a man for whom I would eventually write a State of the Union address, several actually. With master’s degree in hand, I felt a need to complete my education. What title is more prestigious, more rewarding upon hearing in reference to your name than “doctor?” At the same time, an amazing opportunity presented itself, and I was torn. Citing some of my writings and playing on my aversion for stale existence, my friends convinced me to gamble, take the opportunity and intern for a future president, a man who’s two electoral victories are rivaled only by Reagan’s, a man with which we changed American political rhetoric forever: President Rudy Giuliani. Our policies and presentation forged a new era for true libertarian politics and brought the country as close to unification during times of relative peace as any administration could hope. For both my friends and President Guiliani’s faith in my abilities, I am forever grateful.

After Guiliani’s eight-year presidency, I would be remiss to think I could write speeches for anyone as compelling and astonishing as he. I chose instead to leave my speech writing position and finish my education as to fulfill my mother’s dream of having a doctor in the family. But school flew by quickly, and I was faced with impending career. With my experience at such a young age, finding a position as political columnist was not difficult. Finding a credible newspaper willing to give me absolute creative freedom was. I was neither a political crony nor a tool for left or right wing propaganda. Through my speech writing, I hoped to help provide the truth (yes, I said the “T” word; if you must faint, do so quietly and without dramatics) in terms digestible for the common, if struggling, citizen. My writing, I hoped, would mimic said style, for whenever I do anything, I strive for excellence. If I'm not making a significant and meaningful contribution to the field in which I'm working, there's no point in being in the field. That being said, one doesn't have to be particularly great to make a meaningful contribution. As long as one makes a concerted effort for improvement, advancement or development, one is making a meaningful contribution. Alas, my self-standards are set at a level saved for excellence, a level on which competition, not mere contribution, is the essence of existence. Naturally, or so I believe, the order of life and the only basis on which we can live (in a rational manner) is through competition. I don't mean to imply cut-throat life/death struggles, although some of that certainly exists. Friendly competition, rivalry makes advancement easier and necessary, and normally eliminates anyone unwilling or unable to make a meaningful contribution to any given field. Competing allows for ingenuity, wit, splendor and drive—the moving from point to point along a line of excellence. Moving, progression is the natural manner of life. Competition assures its existence.

As a writer, I compete for readers, compete for attention. What can I do to make my writing more important, more interesting and more worthy of readers than my “competition?” Either I compete and write well, or I’m forgotten, a mere smudge on the window of opportunity. I certainly don’t mean to imply that I’m at war with fellow writers, eager to crush their dreams as mine are attained. As I stated, certain types of jobs call for this style of competition (coincidentally, journalism, the career by which I am tangentially connected, comes to mind), but for the most part, numerous writers can succeed in any given field even in the most competitive aspects of professional writing. The aspect of writing in which I chose to live my life allows for such competition. Although, my job is something of a professional sport. Talent plays a large part. Intuition and cleverness play a large part. But “any given Sunday” a no-namer in the field might write a stellar column, get noticed and takes the spotlight off the essential players. His opinion is discussed on Hannity & Colmes and a slew of other “scream at your opponent” shows that week, his name thrown around with hate or adoration based on the political ideology or IQ of the speaker. One great column can change a man, or to be politically correct, woman’s life. Regrettably, competition is the only aspect a columnist shares with an athlete; I wouldn’t mind sharing their salary. Only real journalists share anything more, primarily drug abuse and reckless spending.

To be blunt, what I hope to have accomplished with my writing, more so than the money or pseudo-fame—neither of which I would surrender—more so than a sense of pride, is an avid readership—liberal, conservative, green, yellow, lavender—that is stimulated by my prose, moved to tears, angry shouting, letter writing or any other emotion. I hope that my writing has moved people, changed them, caused them to examine an issue with which their familiarity is nil or through a new, exciting lens. Even if by miraculous Zogby poll, my entire loyal readership was shown to disagree with what I say and how I say it in every article in every paper for which I have ever written, I would still stand here, knees shaking, and pronounce with overly dramatic gesticulation, “So what?” My job, for which I was paid a steak and potatoes salary, was not to change your minds, but to simply make you think, talk, act, move. Inactivity, stillness, is the antithesis of life. If no one changes, no one lives. A man with no revelations has no reason to wake up, no need for food and no connection to a functioning realm of existence.

Needless to say, some people do agree with my writing, whether they have admitted it to themselves or not, and my words have garnered me many a friend, a side effect for which I was hoping but never expected. You have encouraged me to create, to continue creating even when it seemed impossible. We have friends to remind us that our life is not unlivable, neither is theirs. Sadness, struggle, unfortunate occurrences in an uncontrollable reality, lonely and desolate on a sphere of 5.8 billion, cozy with at least one friend. Living, in its entirety, is not depressing. Certain aspects procure sadness, but friends make the sadness an inconsequential smudge, the faintest watermark, on a glass half full. Thank you for filling my cup with more than my fair share of figurative liquid. Now please enjoy your desserts before they melt into your laps.

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