Thursday, September 23, 2010

Essay anniversary III: A Writing Career And Then Some

 If I had difficulty accepting the fact that I survived writing one essay a week for a year, then two years, it comes as a major shock to me to accept the fact that I have now been doing it for three years.  Remarkable, to say the least!  It is not just the fact that I have now published on the blog 156 essays (representing approximately 156,000 words!), but that it has taken place uninterrupted, that I had enough “unique” ideas to come up with that many essay topics, and that I have not only maintained interest in doing it but have had great fun as well. 

I keep a list of the essays I write, and when one of them is posted on the blog, I put a big, bold, checkmark next to it.  In that way, it helps me not to repeat posting an essay previously posted.  I just counted the number of essays on the list without a checkmark next to it, and that total is 42.  Forty-two unchecked essays represents ten essays short of a full year of essays, so the stockpile is sufficient, and essays are currently posted through the end of 2010.  (There must be a stockpile to allow me time to pursue my other writing projects.) 

Some of the essays I write are for cathartic release and will never see the light of publication on the blog.  They are written for my own personal delight and satisfaction! 

For this anniversary essay, I want to talk about more than simply what I have and haven’t learned from writing essays or the contentment and joy that has resulted from writing them.  I have mentioned both of these in the previous two anniversary essays.   Rather, I want to take a brief moment here to take stock.  At the risk of sounding totally self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and self-important, I simply ask readers of my essays to allow my self-obsession in this single essay.  This is my “taking stock” opportunity, and despite the egotism it reflects (those who know me well would never suspect the least bit of egotism! —I need a smiley emoticon here!), I will proceed unabated. 

I took courses and fulfilled my master’s degree requirements with hours. I never wrote a master’s thesis at the University of Michigan, and I regretted passing on that opportunity, but it was the easiest route to completing the degree before leaving for Indiana University.  I had written a number of papers for the courses I took, and I felt that I was a good writer (egotism displayed early!) 

More papers accumulated at Indiana along with a dissertation, “The History of the Lyceum Movement in Michigan, 1818-1860.”  The writing of that dissertation taught me two things: 1) I was not a very good writer, and 2) I could be a much better writer.  But, the dissertation launched me on a professional academic career that lasted over thirty years. 

The reason that choice—“a professional academic career”—is important is simply the “publish or perish” commandment that accompanies the choice.  Some academics condemn it; some attempt to avoid it (often those drop out of academia); and some try to substitute for publications, other work (e.g., presenting papers at conferences, directing radio or theater productions, or serving in administrative positions).  I accepted it and abided by it. 

What “publish or perish” did for me was provide the motivation to write, and the beginning of my professional academic career certainly offers a benchmark for a high-level of productivity.  I have to say, too, that there was another reason involved.  Money.  Financial incentives resulted primarily from publications, and when I determined that most of my faculty colleagues were not publishing and that an annual pool of “merit money” was available for distribution, I did everything in my power to obtain a portion of that pool—annually. 

During my professional career I had 16 of my speeches published in Vital Speeches of the Day, and I wrote close to 100 “scholarly” publications.  I place the word “scholarly” in quotation marks for a couple of reasons.  First, most of the writing I did was of an instructional nature, and although the journals where those articles were published were academic, many were not really labeled “scholarly.”  Second, when you read sophisticated theoretical articles that argued, advanced, or proposed new theories and then you read my contributions, you would quickly come to the conclusion that mine were not “scholarly”—academic yes, but not scholarly. 

In 1973, a colleague of mine, Saundra Hybels, whom I met in a graduate class at the University of Michigan, asked me to co-author a college textbook called, Speech/Communication.  This is when my textbook writing began.  Counting just the textbooks (and not each of the revisions), I wrote close to ten.  A couple of those were very successful.  My book, Understanding Interpersonal Communication, went through seven editions, and my book (co-authored through 1999 with Hybels) Communicating Effectively, went through ten editions. 

Because college textbook writing produces its own financial rewards, textbooks are given little credit when it comes to distributing merit.  It is for this reason—as well as the desire to write a great new book (there’s that ego coming into play again!)—that two of my professional colleagues and I chose to write the book, Research in Speech Communication.  At that time, it was considered the book for beginning graduate courses in speech communication. 

When I began writing textbooks, I often thought about the time I could retire from teaching and just write for a living.  When I chose to take early retirement from college teaching, I was able to spend time writing other things than “scholarly” articles and textbooks.   

It was only after retirement from teaching that I began writing essays for The (Toledo) Blade—and only after the minister of our church at that time, talked about one of his that had been rejected.  He cited the perameters of published essays in his sermon.  I had sixteen published, but it ended abruptly with the retirement of the editor who began the column, “Saturday Essay.” 

That was the time—the termination of that Blade column—that the web site, was launched, and I began writing weekly essays and soon after, a five-day-a-week blog.   

Soon after the creation of the blog came the establishment of my own publishing company, And Then Some Publishing, LLC, and the publication of my first collection of 50 essays, And Then Some: Essays to Entertain, Motivate, and Inspire,  Having proven successful, I went on to publish five more books or collections: 1) Public Speaking Rules: All You Need for a GREAT Speech! 2) SMOERs: Self-Motivation, Optimism, Encouragement Rules, 3) You Rules—Caution: Contents Leads to a Better Life, 4) Relationship Rules: For Long-Term Happiness, Security, and Commitment, and 5) Laugh Like There’s No Tomorrow: Over 2,000 Jokes from the Internet. 

That is the way my writing career has progressed; thus, this anniversary is more than a celebration of 156 published essays.  It is, for me, a personal celebration that represents a successful writing career with more essays and books to follow.  What’s fun about that is simply that it has been a writing career—And Then Some! 


At the Writer’sDigest web site, at “There Are No Rules,” Jane Friedman writes a delightful little essay, “Your Writing Career May Depend on Someone You Never Meet,” about Andrew R. Malkin. Friedman writes: “Read that blog entry describing [Malkin’s] history and his shift into the electronic book publishing industry and you may come to understand better "what" is happening to ebook publishing as the big guys take over, and why they do what they do despite anything we can do or be or become.” 

At the web site, Best Children’s Books, Steve Barancik has written an essay entitled, “Here's an HONEST writer's bio of me, Steve Barancik....”   This is an entertaining, very insightful, autobiography (year-by-year) of Barancik.  What is so interesting about his development as a writer is that he is brutally honest.  So, if you have any desire to become a writer, this is a great place to begin.  Congratulations Steve!  Great essay. 


Copyright September, 2010, by And Then Some Publishing, LLC.


  1. Maximillion Ryan IIISeptember 23, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    Congrats on your 3rd year anniversary. Always enjoy my Thursday mornings with something thought-provoking to read!

  2. Thanks for three great years of writing! And thanks for letting me make my snide and smarmy remarks!


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