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  • Writer's pictureElliot Figueroa

Writing Is A Muscle That Needs To Be Exercised

Be present, be on time, and don't miss the Thanksgiving class...

These are the simple rules of my Journalism professor and a seasoned veteran of the medium. With my prevalence to order to a fault, I knew right away I was going to enjoy this class. What I failed to realize then was how much it would impact my career choices.

I have always enjoyed telling a good story and more often than not received good marks in English, Literature, and Writing classes. Surprising since English is not my native language and formatively I learned it while watching Cheers, Night Court, and Wings with captions in my parents' Florida home. Nevertheless, the use of language as art is always something I've enjoyed. Reading through complex novels and trying to use big words where they did not belong especially among my close social group.

So when my college advisor tallied up my credits and offered up nine electives, I immediately looked for a creative writing class. Among the many COMM courses, one stood out. Mainly because it fit my schedule and I could be home before the kids were. And then on the first day came the reverent rules: Be here, be on time, and don't miss the class before Thanksgiving. I did not quite understand the last rule but the two initial requirements tugged directly at my wheelhouse. Marines are taught to be 15 minutes early or be late and it is certainly not acceptable to miss any scheduled engagement so they resonated with an order I was unknowingly missing.

The admiration for the course went further still. The professor was not timid about calling on you directly and putting you on the spot. He held everyone accountable for the material assigned and did not squander an opportunity to make an example of anyone. And yet he also had a way of remembering the most intricate details about you. Even down to the Rockports I wore on my feet which he called "mid-life man sneakers."

The semester wore on and he gleaned on us the knowledge of his experience in Journalism. Don't bury the lead; Don't use two words when one will do; Don't use one word when two are better; What is a hook and why is it so important?; Be ethical and impartial but not without judgment. Write, write, and write. It is a muscle he said, and it needs to be exercised.

The short weeks were coming to a close but not before I realized what I was missing in my profession. Creativity! I was a long-tenured operation manager and my success depended on the efficiency of logistics and reciprocation of these successes day in and day out. Only on a few occasions did I tap into my creativity and these are the memories I cherish. Creating training agendas for a few managers or leading an associate rally of hundreds. Planning team building activities or speaking on behalf of a candidate for an industry award. These occasions made the mundane operation, every sleepless night and 80-hour workweeks worth it.

The bi-weekly class however was more than just a catalyst to this idea. It sparked every decision I have made since. Combining my passion for the hospitality industry and my desire to tell stories is more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. People suggest you find something you love and you'll never work a day in your life. It's refreshing to find a professor that lives by that motto and is able to transcend the norms of professor/student relations and be a real teacher.

As for that Thanksgiving class. It was worth not missing it. We gathered as grateful college students and shared dishes and beverages along with stories about our plans and goals. Definitely a fitting rule in contrast to the others for which I am forever grateful.

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