Many people have asked me about my writing, specifically my process and craft, at long last the truth finally being revealed. So here are my views, Thomas Slatin, on Writing.
The majority of my titles come from specific moments or keyframes in my mind. Others are obscure references to pop culture, a hidden high five or nod, so obscure that it is overlooked and perceived as mundane. Modern education has taught us to overlook the titles and to under emphasize their importance, ignoring completely their purpose and critical influence in all that we create. Titles, a summary of our creations, and a unique identifier, the title is as important as the work itself.
My heroes growing up were successful people. People who made a difference in the world, people who were published, people who were known. I idolized those who believed in fairness and equality for all people. My parents would hang out with people like Allen Ginsberg, and Charles Kuralt, and these people would often tell my parents that I should be a writer. But my parents were interested in me pursuing what others felt were worthwhile pursuits; accumulation of wealth, fame, and possessions. My inspiration came from my life, and the unique experiences of living a life that was anything but ordinary. Some have speculated over the years that all the stars aligned when I was born, assuming by mistake that I had an easy life full of promise and opportunity.
I attribute my success to sheer determination and defiance. Every single time someone told me that I couldn’t do something, or I simply wasn’t good enough, I worked twice as hard, turning the roadblocks of discouragement into inspiration.
The experiences I had in my younger years were a major factor. I started writing around the age of 8. As a child, I was intellectually achieved; my intellect was far and beyond that of my peers. There were a handful of teachers who hated me; I was often forced to sit alone in the school hallway, and many times I was sent to the principals’ office for even the smallest of infractions. I had very few, if any friends. I spent my free time in my room, reading encyclopedias and writing in my notebook, often for hours at a time, with Pearl Jam, Fleetwood Mac, and Sarah McLachlan playing on my stereo system. I had an insatiable thirst for uncommon knowledge, a trait which has remained to this day, far into my adulthood.
A Career In The Fire Service
All my life, I have given all that I can, I give everything that matters all that I have. In my work, such as in my life, I turn everything up to 11; to me, if something is worth doing, it is worth overdoing.
When I was a child, as any young boy probably does, I dreamed of joining the fire service. As soon as I finished high school, I became an Emergency Medical Technician, then a Firefighter. I worked part-time in college at the Department Of Public Safety. I advanced quickly, moving up the ranks, working as a volunteer for a short period of time, though quickly moving onto being full-time paid. After seventeen years had passed, I was offered the rank of Lieutenant, a position that I once dreamed of achieving, and one which is obviously highly respected and coveted.
But the fire service is known to change people. Long hours, hard work, and a never-ending series of witnessing a multitude of different scenes, some tragic and heart wrenching, a few, in particular, I think about almost every day. The work of a public servant may seem exciting and glamorous at first, especially to those who believe in the fictionalized television shows and movies, which always tend to over-emphasize the dramatic scenes and heroism of the job, far and beyond the limits of reality. Instead, I left the fire service to give myself time to focus on what I believed to be what mattered more to me, realizing after many years that my legacy will ultimately be attributed to my writing and photography.
I like to think of myself as creative, yet when discussing my work, it is generally understood and accepted that my writing and photography is presented through the lens of reality. Curiously, I have always felt completely comfortable documenting my life experiences, less comfortable documenting some of my thoughts, and much less comfortable sharing my writing with others. Reading my writing to others has proven to be most difficult for me since grade school. My goal has always been to be a keen observer; one who sees things for how they exist in actuality, documents them accordingly, and although might be seen at the moment, might otherwise be forgotten. Ever since I can remember, I was writing, though never formally accepting myself as a writer, or stating myself as such in prose. Education speaks a language of success and opportunity which never reached the pinnacle of meaning that I believed it to be. Perhaps I too was forced into subscribing to the belief that before I could call myself a writer, I needed to prove my abilities and vision through modern education in such a way which appeased the imaginary gatekeepers. I found my own success through persistence, patience, perseverance, and years of tireless work, instead of being mystified heavily under the guise of the quality and benefits of modern education as measured solely by the cost. There were times when I remember being in high school and being graded on what I considered to be writing assignments that paled in comparison to my writing ability. Assignments which seemed childish, mundane, and unnecessary, completely lacking any intellectual prowess. I counted the days until graduation so that I too might find solace in the college experience, where my gift would be nurtured and stimulated. In my second year of college, I realized that the same humanities writing assignments were far too similar to those I had completed in high school, leading me into a state of dismay and disenchantment. Perhaps the best part of the college experience was spending time in coffee shops and downtown bookstores. While everyone else was out at the clubs and bars, I was attending the open mic nights at the local cafés. I should have taken pictures and documented these experiences instead of simply allowing these moments to pass me by.
I am a total introvert, though I am truly blessed to have a sizable online following. In addition to the small network of friends, most of whom have known me since childhood. Friends who always seem to make time to clear up my doubts and insecurities, reassurance that my goals and dreams are worthwhile, even when those doubts and insecurities are abounding.
I like to think that I possess the qualities of patience and determination, and the skills to be practically on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, though often times I find myself gravitating towards the older and simpler things I used to enjoy in my younger years. Specifically film cameras and paper notebooks, and playing music from vinyl records; things used for many years which technology tried to replace. And yet, despite the encouragement and outpouring of support, there are so many things I seem to hold myself back from writing, even in my own personal and private journals. An irrational fear of being judged, either by some strange inexplicable means within myself, or through an exponentially unlikely scenario that someone else might come across my writings and judge. My work exists in an inescapable paradox.
The italicized quote came from this post.
Thomas Slatin On How He Finds Finds Inspiration | What Writing Has Taught Me About Life | Playful Beginnings: My Writing Career | Schism | Unexpected Denouement | Discouragement | Maybe Someday I Will Understand Why