Why I Started Writing by Doug Lewandowski

The move fired up my imagination and I started writing in earnest. That step opened pathways to settle down a restless mind and helped to keep life in some kind of balance.

I have always been a reader. Worlds created in books were fascinating and adventure-filled for a twelve year old growing up in the mid-fifties. Life was pretty mundane. Only so many softball and pickup basketball games with Kenny and Mike across the alley were possible. An occasional excursion to the Como Park Zoo on bikes to look at Sparky the Seal might break up a summer day, but there was still a lot of time to kill when I wasn’t in charge of two younger siblings. So, I read.

I went through a lot of horse books and fondly remember King of the Wind, The Black Stallion and Black Beauty. Eventually I moved on to the richer writings of Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, that explored places we can only dream of; books with tightly written plots and interesting characters. They fired my imagination and ignited an interest in places outside the windows on Thomas Avenue.

I started to live in my head a lot more. In many respects that was not a good thing. We all need a balance in life between fantasy and actually doing something. Fortunately, going to college provided that outlet.

I had thoughts of being a biology teacher until I ran into a Calc and Chemistry wall. I had no clue how to make it through them, so I bailed and chose to be an English teacher with a theology minor. At that time, creative writing was not an option. There were very few MFA programs in 1965. I put my time in teaching in a secondary classroom, doling out scraps of grammar and discussing a lot of contemporary literature. Continuing my own education, I ultimately ended up with a background in psychology that moved me from education to clinical, mental health work. But I never gave up the love of reading or turned off the ramblings of a wandering psyche.

Eventually, after an extended stint as a school counselor, I wrapped up my career by teaching English again in an alternative school after a thirty year interlude. The move fired up my imagination and I started writing in earnest. That step opened pathways to settle down a restless mind and helped to keep life in some kind of balance.

When I had some dead time in my work day, I started writing a short story. As the narrative developed, the lives of other characters in that world emerged and I had to give them voice. What resulted was a book that told a tale of a small town in central Minnesota from multiple viewpoints. Like many rural burgs, the interactions of the players overlapped and interacted in a dynamic way.

I started thinking about the how and why of the creative process and found a lot of similarities with what happens as a therapist when there are moments when we touch the numinous. Along the way I found a multitude of explanations for the roots of creativity, from mindfulness to neurobiology that produces layers of  meaning and insight. While the process gives no clear answers as to how it all comes together, the question remains, where does this come from and how is it all interrelated?

I suspect that the gift and scourge of the creative mind comes from the same place that made someone walk up to me recently at an outdoor concert and ask, “Do you remember me?” And I did. The person continued, “You saved my life.” This was someone I had worked with as a clinician in the mid nineteen eighties.

Another time, when I had a chance to talk about the book I wrote, several people who commented on my writing said, “ When I read your book, I cried.” And this was not the first time I’ve heard that.

We can theorize about how it all happens but these interactions are a mystery, seeded by a gift that is given. and we become a conduit for things we have no clue about. Be grateful for the bequests you are assigned, and keep hammering out the words.

Doug Lewandowski has walked a varied path. He was a Christian Brother, an English teacher/counselor and is a retired Licensed Psychologist. He writes a column in the Duluth News Tribune and has had a story published in the Nemadji Review and placed third in 2020 in the Jade Ring’s short story contest of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. Another short story was recently accepted for fall publication in the Jack Pine’s Writer’s Bloc “Talking Stick.” He was a commentator for KCRB, Minnesota Public Radio in the 90s. Doug transplanted to Duluth in 2018 to be closer to grandchildren. You may follow him on his blog douglewandowski.com.