Why its so important to keep the spirit of the amateur alive

January 20, 2022


Q: You have been writing for over 35 years and I remember coming across many of your entries in Icered during the early nineties. Can you share with us, the secret sauce of how you have been able to keep the unrelenting momentum of creative writing so fresh, young and so captivating for all these years while many of your contemporaries have literally disappeared thru the years?

A: I am an incorrigible amatuer Alfred. Then. Now. And I hope forever. Let me put it this way. Since we have using hiking as a metaphor. Do you remember Alfred, when you and Marjorie hiked regularly every single fall for nearly twenty years to the Appalachia’s. I still remember those breath taking photos that you snapped with a 6 X 4 Hasselblad chemical film camera. Kodakchrome right? Do you remember how exciting it was for both of you then? I think that initial exuberance and feeling of exhilaration when the trail is new and you were both amatuers is something that most hikers can relate too. Unfortunately as time goes by, the fascination with the hike is replaced with familiarity. With more hikes. A dullness creeps in. Till at some point it just becomes staid and boring. But let share with you a secret that most planters have always known for as long as the hills. No trail is ever the same, not even the one that you have tranversed a thousand times! Providing you remind yourself to take it all in with the spirit of the amatuer. That’s really the secret skeleton key that keeps everything peppermint fresh and five chili interesting. For the amatuer everything is new and exciting and the field of possibilities are always wide open. For the professional or Mr Know it all. Because he thinks he already knows everything there is to know about himself, others and the trail – a sort of complacency creeps in – where although he is there on the hike, but he’s actually somewhere else. He sees but he doesnt perceive. As he actually sees the trail thru his past memories and although he hears he registers nothing like a tone deaf person, because his familiarity with his sorrounding subconsciously filters out the varied melodies of the birds and insects without him even been conscious of it. But. When one makes an effort to rekindle the curiousity of the amatuer on the trail. Suddenly even the mundane becomes very interesting, for example, it is now the wet season, so the insects are much more prolific than usual and he will be able to make out the countless sights and sounds on the trail to keep it fresh and interesting and most importantly to look forward to experiencing more of its nuances on his next hike. So much so every hike is like revisit one of those great books with so much depth and breadth, he can really only discover yet another fascinating dimension about either himself or the trail. In the dry season. The winds will shift direction and again the same trail is reincarnated, the finches from the Western Sahara will make their annual migratory odyssey to the tropics and again the sights and sounds of the trail will be transformed into yet another exciting orchestra. The way the light filters thru the forest canopy and how it can change a hundred times a day. What I am recounting to you Alfred is the gist of the spirit of the amatuer – he is always curious and never bored. Similarly when it comes to writing one needs to be able to nourish the very same spirit of the amatuer and where possible chase away the arrogance and know it all attitude of the professional. Because when Mr Know it all is running around your head. Everything becomes boring and uninspiring to such a point its impossible to get excited about anything on the hike. The reason why I am acutely mindful of this is because everytime I allow my guard to fall and slip into that Mr Know it all mode. I suddenly lose interest in wanting to know more about that thing or person. Suddenly there’s no Da Vinci code to pique ones interest. Everyone around me goes to sleep. Suddenly mystery is no longer furiously at work to keep one guessing whether you can pass from the realm of theory to reality with relief and instead of having a meaningful conversation. I am really just going thru the motions of listening with the expectation of confirming what I have already decided and if one is not mindful of this corrosive attitude Alfred. Then everything and everyone who we are familiar with will at some point become boring and very plain. That’s why with some couples, especially those where the excitement evaporated long ago and all interest has ceased to exist, the only way for the wife to resuscitate any excitement or curiosity from her lesser half is to shout out, by the way, a big fat tree just crushed your car Darling! Or. Expect an extra zero in my credit card bill this month Darling. That it seems like the ancient Egyptians say is the only way to raise the living dead. Such drastic and heart attack inducing measures it seems is the only way to revive the amatuer spirit these days. I am kidding of course. My point Alfred is writing is really not so different from how to keep your hikes or for that matter your marriage so exciting all the time that you will always want more of the good stuff again and again. You really have to work hard to remain an amatuer.

EP 9901838400139 George Chong 2021 / Con’t from LIBC 2021 NYC. USA 

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