William H. Johnson

Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Busy Bee Gets the…Honey?

In Reflection, The Trubaker Orphanage, Writing on June 23, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I’ve come to realize that the busier I am the more I get accomplished. A no-brainer isn’t it? I mean, it makes sense that the more you’re doing, the more will get done. However, as writers we often use how “busy” we are as an excuse as to why our writing life is less than productive.  I myself have gotten much busier over the last year, and I have questioned my ability to produce as a writer on more than one occasion. But perhaps in some case we’re just not busy enough to produce the way we’d like…

What I’ve found in my reflection has been somewhat comforting–more than somewhat actually. I’ve found that my own personal rhythm is best supported when I am constantly in motion. My work thrives when I am answering the call of many passions. It seems that the more hats I wear, within reason, the more productive I become with each hat’s purpose as long as I get out of my head and trust that rhythm.

As many of you know, I’ve transitioned from teaching and directing theatre full time to teaching full time in a public high school. It may shock you to know that I teach math (why not English? You may ask. But that’s another topic for another post). Being a full time high school math teacher, a new teacher at that, has been quite overwhelming but rewarding as well especially since I worked with students who tend to struggle in school. In addition to teaching I am also a football coach for the same high school. I’m a father of two small children. I’m a husband. I’m in graduate school working on my M.Ed.

Yikes, right?

If I think about it too much I get stressed, I confess. But when I look at what I’ve accomplished in the last six months including my writing, I can only nod my head with gratitude. Through this challenging time I’ve grown in every area. My rewrite of THE TRUBAKER ORPHANAGE is clicking along just fine and I’m quite happy with what’s been produced so far.

I certainly don’t recommend this for everyone. It works for me because my centers of passion are being acknowledged and affirmed — my passion for education, youth that could be at-risk, and the positive role sports can play for young people. Working in these areas generates new energy that allows me to produce in all areas of my life including my writing. Indeed, I may write in spurts; pour tens of thousands of words on the page in a 7-10 day period that is preceded and followed by a “dry period”. What I’ve learned is that these aren’t actually dry periods at all. They are seeding periods, where inspiration and imagination are sown like seeds.

This rhythm has kept me on pace toward my goal of releasing my second novel over the summer of 2013 (TRUBAKER) and my third novel over the summer of 2014 (RISEN). Who am I to complain about something that’s working, however unorthodox it might be?

I remain deeply grateful for my family and their support and love for their mildly workaholic Daddy and husband–and to all my readers and blog/twitter/facebook followers. Your company on this journey has been invaluable.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a 2000-word research paper to finish by midnight! 🙂

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“We’ll miss you, Mister. Will you miss us?”

In Reflection on June 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm

The talk of summer has been sporadic between the students and me this week. It’s been mostly business. Preparing for the final exams. Hassling the kids who’ve given up, telling them that every moment they apply themselves is valuable, pass or fail.

Quietly, for all of us, the clock has been ticking. Friday, tomorrow, is the last day of school. For some it’s just the last day of a school year. For some it could be last day before heading off to the continuation school to make an attempt to catch up on credits already lost early in their high school lives. For me the feelings are mixed. While I’m relieved that my first year is almost over, I’m also feeling more than a touch of seperation anxiety.

These kids will always be the first students I worked with during my first full year in public education. Regardless of how deep their struggles–the struggles were many– and no matter how challenging some of them were to work with on the bad days–and there were bad days–they will always be the first. They were a motley crew of teenagers; strong minds battling real loss and crises among academically disheartened souls at a crossroads among hardened hearts who’ve given up on school and have chosen to wear a brash smile until the school will no longer admit them.

Regardless of their story, they were all my students; kids I shared with other teachers, families, and the community. For an hour of a day, Monday through Friday, my classroom was where they belonged. Bonds had to be created first and foremost for any learning to take place, individual bonds and one that consisted the whole group. Tomorrow they’re released from my one-hour-a-day care and those connections will be left to sway in the breeze until their forward going relevance is determined and they evolve to memories or bonds of a new kind.

Tonight, I’m giving in to that quietly overwhelming combination of relief and sadness to see the year end. I’ll be proud of the students that gave themselves a chance to pass a class or state exam that they’d previously failed. I’ll honor those few A students who found their groove and soared amidst of the occassional chaos of students who didn’t share their commitment. I’ll choose to have hope for the kids who will retake the required course or state exam, some of which  will be seniors, and pray they are able to overcome their fear of making an honest try next year.

As writers we live with passion for our characters. Just as they often did this year, my characters both from published works and works in progress will step aside and quietly honor these real young people who inspired  as many highs, lows, and flashes of grace as any imagined landscape I’ve ever visited.

My [Inappropriate Gesture] to Gasoline

In Reflection on June 3, 2012 at 6:26 pm

88 cents. During El Nino in 1998 the price of gas at the Thrifty on Hawthorne Boulevard in Lawndale California dipped to 88 cents. I remember the first summer I lived in Los Angeles I would drive up to Burbank to study with improvisational theatre guru Gary Austin at the Third Stage Theatre on Magnolia. Before making the trip back down to the beach cities where I lived I would gas up at the Mobil station at Magnolia and Buena Vista.  $11.50 to fill it up.

I’m not going to go off about the foreign policy and energy policy failures of the past (and present) that has enabled our addiction to foreign oil. That’s another blog, another story, another conversation. I’m not going to evoke tired provocations about wars being fought over oil or any of that. I’m just going to point out that the same smelly substance that fuels my car today costs the almost five times more than it did back in those days when I was a new Californian, wide-eyed and wandering up and down the freeways of L.A.

It does nothing new. It still stinks. It’s just as toxic. Its just as flammable. It’s just as crappy for the environment when it’s burned in a combustion engines. It doesn’t cook me breakfast. It doesn’t protest against racism. It doesn’t eliminate homophobia or promote gender equality. It’s the same [bleep] it was 15 years ago yet it costs $4.50 a gallon.

That’s not inflation, that’s extortion. So I bought this:

2012 Nissan Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s an electric vehicle. No gas. No oil. None. End of controversy.

Now don’t get me wrong, EVs aren’t the cure-all for the world problems either. My little electric vehicle isn’t going to cook me breakfast (though it takes the gas cost out of my grocery shopping). It isn’t going to protest racism (though I did by a white one. Progress? Progress?). It doesn’t reduce homophobia or promote gender inequality (though my wife does look gorgeous in it. Progress? Progress?) I am, however, taking a giant step out of the gas game—and friends—it is a stupid game. Gas prices change for no good reason at all and fluctuate DAILY.

So that’s it. That’s my tiny little statement about gas from my desert oasis home. I’m hoping for many great years of service from my new car. Who knows. Maybe years from now I’ll be declaring, “once you lose gas you don’t go back.”

(Progress? Progress?)