One of the things I noticed during my 24 years of teaching at our university is a common problem that many intelligent, gifted students have. Usually, when someone is talented in one area, they also have talents in other areas as well. And then what happens is that they get to college and they find all kinds of opportunities to get involved in drama, in music, in speech, in politics, in, well, you see where this is going. If you’re going to be great at something, you have to focus on it, and be willing to set some things aside. More than once I had the conversation with honors students who were struggling because they were an SA officer, in choir, a recruiter for the university and on the intramurals basketball team. Some people can be renaissance men; most people can’t.
I didn’t have a huge amount of things that were in conflict in my life growing up. Mostly the conflict was between writing and music. As a kid I was singled out as a gifted singer, and that’s where it seemed my life was going. In college I started writing music, and I started a Christian folk group that performed. We even won in a talent festival in Fresno, California.
I continued singing, playing guitar and performing as I started my career as an editor and writer. When I became an editor for Pacific Press in Idaho, I was called on to preach in many locations, and I became very involved in my church. It all seemed to fit together well.
At the same time, I felt like I wasn’t giving my writing its due. In order to move from being a fair writer to being a good writer, and then from being a good one to a great one, I felt you had to totally invest yourself in the craft. And so, when I came to Texas and became a professor 24 years ago, I hung up my guitar and stopped singing. There were other reasons as well, such as the fact that I was running a radio station at the time and didn’t need additional distractions. But mainly, I knew I needed to make writing my number one priority, especially since I had a teaching career as well.
Now, in June 2021 I retire from teaching. I have 23 published books, and have pretty well established myself as a writer. As I think about what my retirement will look like, I have thought about taking up singing again. The only problem is, it’s been so long since I have performed, I wonder if I still can do it? The voice of a 67 year old is not the same as it was in his 20s, or even in his 40s. But then, I’m not out to prove anything to anybody.
Is it possible to go back to that fork in the woods and change paths? We’ll see.