So last week I took a workshop in Pasadena and it wasn't the usual molar jockey stuff that's made me the total continuing education nerd you see today.
Nope, I give you the...(drum roll please) Ultimate Storybuilding Workshop.
And it woulda been nice if facilitators World famous marketing guru Craig Valine and Scott Evans, creator of film classics Sandlot and Radio Flyer, and a zillion or so inventions (including a website aromatically called www.fartopia.com) had been around 15 years ago.
The workshop was all about drawing out the stories we all have and then building some purposeful order to them helping us become more effective communicators.
So here's my writing story and I'm stickin' to it. If you guys are appalled, bored, or driven to some sort of medievil rage, go ahead and blame World famous Craig or the Sandlot guy, not me.
Just like practically none of you, I was born right here in LA. And as a kid, I thought stuff like penmanship, music lessons, and arts and crafts were strickly for non-athletic poindexter types who would later attend UCLA. But I loooved reading; couldn't stop turning the pages.
My boyhood heroes were Old School professional athletes like Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, and the Celtic's Bill Russell. But my biggest hero of 'em all was the greatest sportswriter of 'em all, the LA Times' very own Jim Murray.
Murray was the ultimate master of the metaphor; he could routinely paint a picture with words. Murray wrote comedy and tragedy and moved you to tears with both. He was antagonistic and thoughtful, brutally honest and creative as a 1,200 word novelist. And never mind sports; just remembering Murray's columns on the death of his wife or the prospect of losing the sight of his "good eye" manage to slug me in the gut even as I'm writing.
For teenager me, Jim Murray made Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Orwell seem like pretentious pikers of prose; and there he was...gift-wrapped on my front porch every single morning.
Lots of folks can swing a bat or throw a ball but there was only one Jim Murray.
And until I'd been a dentist for over twenty years, I'd never written one single freakin' thing other than some published letters to the Times' Saturday Sports Viewpoint.
I started my weekly published streak with the San Gabriel Weekly back in 1998, the same year Jim Murray died and one year prior to losing my mom to complications from diabetes. During my mom's long, difficult journey through the challenges of disease and our health care system, I noticed, close-up, lots of folks were receiving impersonal, by-the-numbers treament, not real care. Seemed like just when moms and dads were most vulnerable, reassurance and a human connection were often missing.
I've always thought writing provided a great opportunity to craft ideas and get things just right. What a chance to let readers know we health care providers are human and really care...and sometimes, however rarely, can actually be intentionally funny. What if we could help folks be their own best health advocates? What if patients could feel a little like friends and family before they even met us? Bet Jim Murray could do it.
For the last 15 years, I've written weekly columns, blogs, or cheap shots and bon mots for multiple local publications. I've even been fired TWICE in one year without a pay cut. And I've loved my editors...maybe with the exception of the two losers who probably went to UCLA.
I've always written conversationally, as if I was just hangin' out with friends and family...and that's a very fun and cool way to see patients.
Back when I was just starting out, my former Mark Keppel High classmate and teammate, Scott Ostler (now an award-winning writer for the San Francisco Chronicle) tried helping me out. My early efforts invariably came back bleeding red ink and ALWAYS with "TELL A FREAKIN' STORY AND MAKE A POINT!!!" scribbled across page one.
So okay World Famous Craig and Scotty, just when's the next Ultimate Point Building workshop coming up on the calendar? And don't even think about telling me to wait until Fartopia.com goes public.