I don’t want to dwell on the past or revel in nostalgia, but to explain how I got here, I’ve got to start there.
It starts with a fox.
I was in fifth grade, and one day we were assigned to write a story about an animal. I ended up with the fox as my animal, and still being something of a dutiful student, I did my research — at least, what research you would expect from a fifth-grader — and I wrote my five-page story.
I enjoyed the experience. I got a kick out of using my imagination to tell the story of this fox making his way through a trailer park, across a major road and over the train tracks to safety — especially since the land he was crossing bore a striking resemblance to where I lived.
Write what you know, right?
Anyway, I wrote my story and I turned it in and I got an A, and I thought that was it. But then my teacher told me she wanted me to read my story to one of the second-grade classes. She told me I should go over to the other classroom at recess, the other teacher would be waiting on me.
I didn’t do it. I went to recess instead and ended up in trouble for not going to read my story to the second-graders.
You wouldn’t think a 10-year-old would be intimidated by a bunch of 7-year-olds. But the thought of going in front of people I didn’t know and reading to them — hell, I still get nervous about it.
My senior year of high school, I had earned enough credits by second semester that I had essentially a free period. I could have taken a second study hall, but instead I chose to take Creative Writing again, for no credit.
I had taken Creative Writing as a freshman, so I knew by then that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Somewhere in this house, I’ve got a collection of the stories/poems/etc. that my class wrote my senior year, while I’m certain my freshman year work is lost to time. Probably for the best; I seem to remember something of an homage to the railroad bridge scene from “The Body” (i.e. the source for the movie “Stand By Me”) and my oh-so-clever plot twist to have the kid who saves the other be blind.
What can I say? I was a kid.
When I went off to Ball State, I was initially an English major. Because I was going to be a writer, see, and that’s what writers did. Major in English.
That didn’t last long. I was interested in psychology, and in computers, so I was going to major in the first and minor in the second.
Should have stuck with computers. Who knows how rich I would be now?
But a lack of motivation–homesickness? Not having parents to watch over me?–washed me out of college my first year. I came home, worked at my hometown Arby’s for a year, and when I went back to Ball State, I figured out/was shown that journalism would be a good major for me.
Hey, get paid for writing, in a steadily growing profession? Sounds great.
Yes, that’s foreshadowing. No, don’t jump ahead yet.
I had a little over a year left toward my degree when I headed home again. Financial concerns and that ever-present wall of unmotivation caused me to take another break. I spent a little time at the Burger King where I worked in high school, got a job at a factory (not my first, and that’s a story for another time), and worked one shift, maybe two, at another Arby’s (not the one from before). I was going nowhere.
But I had met this girl, this gorgeous chick with sparkling blue eyes. And somewhere in those long late-night phone calls we used to make (she lived in Bloomington, I lived in Muncie then Seymour then Columbus), I told her I wanted to be a writer and she encouraged me to do so.
Wouldn’t be the last time she tried to kick me in the ass to do this writing thing.
So I’m unemployed in Columbus, Ind., and looking at all kinds of help wanted ads, when one day the local paper has an ad for a reporter at a different paper, down in Brownstown, 10 miles from where I grew up. Why not, I think, and I send in my resume and I get an interview and in the fall of 1998, I start working as a reporter at the Jackson County Banner.
A month later, I ask that girl to marry me. She laughs then she kisses me then she says yes.
A year or so goes by and the Banner gets bought by some chain who decides that this two-day-a-week newspaper doesn’t need a full-time reporter and I’m out the door, a month or so before our wedding. That speeds up our move from Brownstown to Bloomington. I get a job inputting cassette and CD selections at Columbia House, mindless busywork, before I see an ad in the Bloomington paper for a reporter position at a newspaper in Bloomfield. I send in my resume and I get an interview and in the spring of 2000, I start working as a reporter at the Bloomfield Evening World.
A quick aside: The Banner has long since been absorbed into another chain and the Evening World went out of business completely and I’m fairly certain Columbia House is no longer a thing. But Burger King and Arby’s are still around.
There’s probably some sort of clever insight there, but I’ll be damned if I know what it is.
We move to Indianapolis for Bessie’s last year of school and I decide to quit my job in Bloomfield because it’s just too far a drive every day. I see an ad in the Indianapolis paper for a temporary newsperson position at The Associated Press bureau there in Indy. I send in my resume and I get an interview and in the fall of 2000, I start working as a newsperson at The AP.
You’d think that would be good for the ol’ resume. Turns out that most newspapers, at least the ones I’m applying to when the gig ends in the spring of 2001, think that because I was paid so well at the AP, I won’t want to work for what they’re offering. I’m just looking for a job.
So it’s off to CVS for a job until I see an ad for a reporter position at the Columbus newspaper–you know, where I saw that ad for a job at the Banner. I send in my resume and I get an interview and in the fall of 2001, I start working as a reporter at the Republic.
I work my way up, from cops reporter to copy editor to sports editor. The industry changes, I’m out the door. There’s a part-time job at one newspaper; I network my way into covering IU sports for a couple other newspapers and occasionally for the AP; I go back to school to get a degree to get me out of the newspaper business and end up … back in the newspaper business. At least for awhile, until I see an ad for a web editor position at The American Legion. I send in my resume and get an interview and in early 2016, I start working at the Legion’s national headquarters in Indianapolis.
So what’s the point of this trip down memory lane?
Seven years ago today, I doled out the cash to register this domain name, andyproffet.com. I knew it was important to stake out my own little corner of the Interwebs, to have an online portfolio, a place to write whatever I wanted to write.
When I decided to “relaunch” the site on its 7th birthday, I kept thinking about writing something profound to serve as the lead statement on what I was doing. But everything I wrote spiraled out of control into this woe-is-me lament about the writing I haven’t done in the seven years this site has been around, and in the years before that as well.
But I’m trying to take a more positive approach to, well, life in general — God knows we all need that right now — so I started thinking about the fact that, while I don’t have that great novel written, haven’t really blogged much beyond sharing links to my sports writing, I’ve done a hell of a lot of writing since I started making something of a living off it nearly 20 years ago.
And I remember the seemingly random praise I’ve received out of the blue over the years that remind me that my writing is impacting someone: my niece asking me when I’m going to write her a book; a high school classmate introducing me as a great writer to his girlfriend at our class reunion; the occasional email I’ve received for my news stories or sports stories or columns or features.
So I’ll take the compliments. I’ll make the time to write: here and in private, working on that novel (or novels) that has been simmering in my imagination for way too long.
I’ll do it for ego, sure, and maybe I can make some cash off this as well. But in the end, the real reason to do it is because it’s my way to make the world a better place, and to make me a better person.