About Will McGough

When I was at Temple University, working towards my Masters in Journalism, I edited scholarship essays for undergraduate students.  There was a saying I used when the writing was bad.  I’d say, “Kill your darlings, and start fresh.”  This was, of course, not original – an adaptation of the famous advice given to writers by Arthur Quiller-Couch – but it was true.  Some things are always true.  A few minutes ago, I took my own advice and held down the delete key.

I had so much to say in this letter, so much to point out.  Let me show them this side of me, I thought.  Let me make sure they realize I’ve done this, and studied that, and written for that magazine.  I made a list.  I connected the dots.  It was all there, all neat and pretty.
willmcgough
Another laundry list of accomplishments, I thought, things I’ve done that are supposed to impress people.  A Master’s Degree in Journalism, my own business, a staff writer at a newspaper.  Doesn’t it all just make you giddy?

Well, it bores the shit out of me.  The whole thing.  All of it.  To hell with that resume, that piece of paper, the thousand words I wrote yesterday.

Something I’ve learned thus far: I’m a little different.  At Temple one evening, after class, our teacher handed us back a feature writing exercise, an exercise in descriptive writing.  My classmates snatched up their reviews and obsessed over the comments, like lions on a carcass.  I stuffed mine into the top of my backpack – pushing it in so it wouldn’t get caught in the zipper – and headed for the door.  I hadn’t even looked at it.  “Will,” the professor said, his face serious, “Did you look over my comments?”

“It was beautiful to me when I wrote it,” I told him, with no hint of sarcasm, “So long as you didn’t cross anything out, it’s still beautiful.”

The man could not comprehend.  He finally muttered, “Oh, all right, Will,” his face blank, “See you next week.”

I was already out the door.  Professors, I thought, they’ve never been too fond of me.  I’m the cliché, I thought, the one they can’t get to.  I had a way of becoming their projects.  Everyone wanted to be the one who got through to me.  Everyone wanted to be the one whose advice I took.

Look, I’m no rebel teenager, and I’m certainly no problem child.  I’m reasonable.  That said, I simply don’t care that you think I should use the word ‘fast’ instead of ‘quick.’  Come on, Mr. Professor, I wrote two thousand words here – there was even a sex scene, for Christ’s sake – and you want to chat about word replacements?

And that’s how education went for me, a bunch of people nitpicking about personal preferences, worshipping dead people who used to be good at something, and fighting to be the “best.”  I did not care about being the best.  I only wanted to be myself.

Writing seemed like a good way to be myself.  It’s me and the blank sheet of paper, game on.  I have one task: Write something beautiful.  It could be about a girl, it could be about a piece of trash on the beach.  Just make it beautiful, write it so when they read it, they feel as good as you do when you’re writing it, I tell myself.  That’s a good feeling, when you write something beautiful.  That’s a smile on my face no red ink can erase.

I remember a professor said to me, “Will, the others in class, they eat, breathe and sleep magazines.  Look at them.  They carry one around all the time.  It’s their passion.  See Anna there, she’s reading one now.  She wants to write for Glamour.  That’s how you do it, Will, you study how they do it.  You read the way they do it and then see if you fit their style.”

And then it hit me.  I shook my head, said a few words of agreement, and made him believe I took what he said to heart.  I had, in fact.  I went back over to my desk, opened my notebook, and wrote down this sentence: While the others are in here trying to figure out how to be like the writers before them, you’re out there living your life and writing it all down the way you see it… Keep it up.

My whole life people have said to me, do it this way, do it that way.  Go to college, my mother said.  Go to grad school, my father told me.  Be an engineer.  Study business.  Get a job.  Live at home.  Save your money.  Study hard.  Save yourself for the right girl.  Don’t curse.  Wear a lifejacket.  Can you afford that?  Are you sure?  What…you rent cars? With a Master’s degree?  Cut your hair.  Grow out your hair.  Comb your hair.  Be on time.  Update your resume.  Apply for the promotion.  Don’t settle.

Hey, people, back off.

That’s your side of the story, that’s how you think it should go.

This is mine.

41 replies »

    • Cheers Will. Thanks for checking out the site and it was great to meet you as well. You certainly enhanced our experience at the winery. Be sure to let me know when you head South.

  1. Will,
    Love the about me page. This really gave me a quick taste of what is important to you and how you view life. Very refreshing. Looking forward to seeing you soon.
    David

    • Thanks for the kind words… I was really just venting when I wrote it. But you’re right – it tells my story rather well.

  2. Ah, a fellow non-conformist. I knew I liked you the moment I met you. Till I can get back on the road again, I will travel through your eyes, your pictures and your words. Thanks.

  3. Hey man nice blog you got here. This is probably the best about me post I have ever read. I was going to ask for some advice on writing hahaha but I remembered what you were writing about that I should tell my story the way I see it. I usually learn things by imitating and tweak it to fit me. I traveled around the world and I am now trying to tell my story. You can check out my BLOG when you have chance and LMK what you think. I was also looking for your subscribe button, do you have one?

  4. Thanks for the awesome blog about Shamrock Run day at Power Plant Live! Loved reading it! Hope to see you back at the Beer Garden soon! We have a big beer fest coming up on March 30th!

  5. Will,
    I was just reading the comments above and you responded to every one of them but mine…What gives?

    P.S. I don’t know if I enjoy looking at you and your pics or reading what you have to say more. c

    • Oh man sorry Cindi! It was not my intention to single you out, honest mistake, cross my heart.

      Thanks for the kind words…. hope you continue to do both!

  6. How joyful that you recognize you, so early in your journey (Sorry for the trite phrase) and are free to so ardently pursue more of you! If I had not met you yesterday, I would have recognized you instantly had I read this first.

  7. Wow! You truly inspire me to follow my dreams not those of others for me…all day, every day! Thank you and keep rockin your awesomeness all over this beautiful planet!

  8. I’m so glad you held down that delete key. This is just the inspiration I need to continue on the path that is my own, not the path the world wants me to follow. Thank you for your words and I wish you the best in all that you do. Cheers!

  9. I wish I could have done what you are doing while young, but I’m attempting to make up for now that the nest is empty. Enjoy! BTW, you have great pictures of your travels!

  10. Definitely almost failed a feature writing class in college because I had trouble matching the exact tone of the target magazine. Writers should never be confined to a certain style. That’s the beauty of it, that no two writers are exactly the same. Loved reading this Will!

  11. You’ve pretty much summed up why I dropped out of my creative writing class in university about 5 years ago. Since then, I’ve had many “great” jobs with great benefits and “stability”… All at the cost of my freedom and sanity. Living other people’s dreams just isn’t for me anymore. It’s why I’m planning to travel to Australia (as a start), by the end of the year.

    In any case, I look forward to exploring your site and reading on your adventures.
    Keep it up 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s