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    Challenge Yourself to Try Something New

    For this month's column, I feel compelled to temporarily abandon the editor's point of view. This time, I am a writer who recently unearthed a level of creativity I didn't know I had.

    As a journalist for most of my career, I never had the chance or desire to exploit the creative side of my writing ability. Most of my writing has been nonfiction for newspapers, trade magazines and serious publications. Beyond the few poems I wrote in high school, it just didn't come up. I was too busy writing serious pieces.

    In recent weeks, I accepted a challenge that helped me unlock the creative writer inside me. When asked by the pastor of my church to apply my skills to God's work, I took a stab at writing a worship song. It was unfamiliar territory on many levels. I had never explored creative writing and had no clue how to write lyrics. Perhaps the Irishman in me accepted the challenge to prove something to myself. I was driven to write something creative and wonderful.

    So, I stared at the screen for about five minutes before tapping out a series of words in an attempt at poetic form. I figured I'd throw in some rhyming phrases and make a point about my faith, something poignant and emotional. Being strong in my faith, I let that passion filter through my fingers and onto the screen. Then, I revised the piece twice. I was amazed at how easy those words came to me. It was as if my firmly secured journalistic blinders were stripped from my head. I felt free and inspired. However, I had no idea how those words would fit into a melody, so I sought help.

    I e-mailed the lyrics to the music director at my church, seeking his opinion and requesting that he try to put music to the words. I begged him to be honest, as I had never tried this before. To my surprise, he said the lyrics were "good" and that he'd try to put them to music. Within a few weeks, he had composed a melody to accompany my lyrics. Together, we made music. He gave me a taped recording of the song and we revised a few words here and there. It was strange to see something I wrote in sheet-music form. It was even stranger to hear my lyrics in my car as I drove to work.

    When the music director played the piano and sang our song on April 7?its public debut?I held my breath in the back pew. I was nervous about how people would react to my first stab at creativity. To my joy and shock, the comments were overwhelmingly positive: "Great job on that song," one churchgoer said. "I didn't know you had it in you," another said. "You have a gift," said another. Another said, "Wow, I was moved to tears."

    Moved to tears? Was he serious? To think that the lyrics I wrote elicited that much emotion from a grown man validated my attempt at creativity. I felt like a life-long dream had come true. It wasn't because someone liked something I wrote. It was because someone liked something creative I wrote. I accepted a challenge and (with God's help) made myself focus on being creative.

    Then it dawned on me that I had neglected my creative side for the entire span of my career. I am now rejuvenated with the creative juices I thought were only reserved for poets and fiction writers. An entirely new world of possibilities is open to me. I may write more songs. I may write poetry. I may try to get published in creative journals and poetry reviews. The shackles are gone and I have a newfound freedom to create. What I perceived as a limitation no longer exists. What a feeling!

    I share this writing rebirth with you so you will have the confidence to try something new. Who knows what could happen? Go ahead and challenge yourself. You might move someone to tears or win a Pulitzer Prize. Don't be afraid to reach for the unknown. I'm glad I accepted that challenge. I am now -- and it's strange to say -- a songwriter because someone pushed me to try.

    Copyright © 2002 Joseph M. Kelly

    Joseph M. Kelly, who is editor of Electrical Contractor magazine in Bethesda, Md., and a Baltimore, Md.-based freelance writer, has been published in daily and weekly newspapers, national trade magazines, newsletters and online. His work has appeared in The Maryland Coast Dispatch, Hardware Age, Home Improvement Market, LBM Retailer, Garden Supply Retailer, Decorative Products Retailer, Outdoor Power Equipment, Association Publishing, Writing For Money, The Baltimore Press, The Enterprise, Electrical Contractor, AWritersLife.net, Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel, and several other publications.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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