By Judith Whitehead
About 22 years ago I returned to the University at Buffalo to finish my bachelor’s degree. One of the classes I took was in writing. I bought my first computer then and began to master it.
I had taken typing in high school as a class, which I am sure is not offered any longer, so typing on a computer was second nature.
Growing up I was pretty shy and did not offer my opinion much; I soon realized that writing an article about something that touched my life was much easier to do and so I began to spill out all my thoughts to share with the world.
I have been approached over the years about the many articles I have written and asked if I had a writing or literature degree. I tell people, all you need to focus on are life experiences to share with others and express your thoughts.
Everyone has something to write about: Friends, family, life and death experiences provide much fodder as material. I have immensely enjoyed sharing my viewpoints with the world.
A writer has to build up a tough shell because you will receive all kinds of comments about your writing, some being harsh while others complimentary. I receive letters at times about the content I have written, and people sharing their similar experiences with me.
There is a delicate balance involved in deciding what to write about. You are airing your laundry and in some cases you become vulnerable. People get to know a person through their writing and feel part of your life. I make it a rule to stay off political topics because that is a volatile area these days, or any days.
I usually write about something I know very well. For example my 40 years working in ophthalmology gives me mountains of material to work on. Also I draw on my life experiences of which I have a varied array of material. Anyone who has raised a family or has endured many life experiences has all the material you need to write about.
Going back to school at nearly 40 years old gave me some advantages. Taking one course at a time, it took me a while to finish. I am a firm believer that slow and steady wins the race.
I was able to afford one class at a time while working full-time and could fully concentrate since it was only one course. I also enjoyed every class and although I was surely the oldest student in most classes, I found the other students counted on me to fill them in on the notes.
Being a “senior” student made me more serious and since I was footing the bill, I made sure not to miss a class. I went back to school to obtain a gerontology degree; writing was one insignificant class I took to complete my electives. You never know what path life has in store for you.
I use writing and computers in my ophthalmology career as well, writing health articles about the eyes and health.
The Buffalo News’ My View column has given me a platform for my thoughts and I am very grateful for that opportunity.
My advice to young and old budding writers is to dig down and search for a topic that appeals to the general public, feel passionate about a topic and let it all out in writing.
It may change your life in ways you will never guess.
Judith Whitehead, of East Amherst, encourages others to share their experiences through writing.