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My Dad and Writing




Yesterday in the US was Father’s Day. My dad is gone (as is my mom) but both supported my efforts to write while I had a full-time job. For common sense, they couldn’t be beat. So I’m going to share my dad’s wisdom on writing that I’ve used as a yardstick ever since.

I had read a writing magazine that extolled the virtues of one type of writing. It’s formulaic! It makes money!

By the end of the issue, I was convinced to write a book in that genre for some quick and easy cash. I typed one paragraph and cringed. I couldn’t write another word but I was so disappointed in myself.

I went to the living room where my dad watched TV and told him what I’d tried to do. He said words that are engraved on my heart:

“You start out writing garbage, you end up writing garbage.”

What he meant, of course, is not that that unnamed genre was garbage—just that it wasn’t right for me. And to write solely for the money and not with any part of my heart was simply wrong.

He didn’t make me feel like a failure because I couldn’t do it.

Thanks dad. Miss you still.



Image courtesy of sattva at


  • Marie MacBryde • June 22, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Your dad’s advice is very true.

    • J. M. Levinton • June 22, 2015 at 8:00 am


  • jan • June 22, 2015 at 10:39 am

    If I write in a genre dominated by formulaic rules it always ends up reading like satire!

    • J. M. Levinton • June 22, 2015 at 11:15 am


  • Jeff • June 23, 2015 at 12:02 am

    Sounds like some technical writers, writing for the $$ and do not make the writing interesting. When you get good technical writers, like the guys who wrote for Mackie (audio production equipment) in the 90’s you can get some pretty detailed and boring stuff interlaced with enough humorous text to make is much less of a chore to read.

  • Lydia • June 17, 2019 at 6:52 am

    Your dad sounds like a smart guy.

  • J. M. Levinton • June 17, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Oh, he was. TONS of common sense. 🙂

  • Christine Verrone • June 18, 2024 at 9:49 am

    As a preacher, I sometimes struggle to come up with a different sermon each week.
    I mean after a few thousand years of preachers… almost everything that can be said, has been said, right? No ? HELP !!

    What helps me in the long run is an old saying and it is similar to what your father said:

    “To thyself be true”.

  • J. M. Levinton • June 19, 2024 at 4:42 pm


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