This reason strikes particularly close to home for me.
When I convocated from the U of R with a BA – English way back in 1996, I lived in great fear that I would only find work in the “French Fried Arts” as was the stereotype for Arts grads then (and probably now too…if there are any Arts grads left!)
Instead, through a combination of good luck and fortuitous timing, I ended up working for an industry association representing book publishers across the province in what turned out to be as close to a dream job as a book-loving, new-English degree-having kid could want.
It was while I worked for the Saskatchewan Publishers Group and especially later, when I worked for the Writers Guild of Alberta, that I realised how easy people thought it was to write a book.
At the WGA, not a week would go by without my getting a call from some would-be author asking how to get their book published or protect their copyright or sell the movie rights. Those are all very legitimate questions for first-time authors except that in the vast majority of the cases, these people hadn’t actually written the book yet!
Maybe they had an idea for a book. Or had joined a writing group and done some exercises. Or they’d even written a few pages before losing steam. In many cases, I got the impression that the most creative activity they had done was laying in bed dreaming night after night of the riches that would arrive when they did write the book, who would star in the movie version, the questions Oprah would ask them.
That’s a big part of what impresses me about Ryan having actually written a book – I’ve seen first hand how hard it is.
Writing a book requires a special kind of dedication and perseverance that is rarely seen. It means that you have to have a plan for how to write and then the follow-through to actually do so, over days and weeks and months (and occasionally years) until the project is completed. You have to be a self-starter and you have to be able to work through writer’s block. For a non-fiction book like Ryan wrote, you need to be able to synthesize enormous amounts of external information into a cogent whole.
And finishing a manuscript is just the beginning. Then you have to go out and find a publisher – a disheartening experience at the best of times. (One small regional literary press I worked with received more manuscripts than there are days in the year, all for the dozen or so spots they have for the books they publish each year.)
Of course, beyond writing it and finding a publisher, the other thing that impresses me is that Ryan’s book is so well-written. It accomplishes something that may seem simple but is extremely difficult – combining story-like anecdotes along with academic facts, evidence and research as well as an analysis of the current political landscape into a very readable work.
There are many reasons I like Ryan (as this series of posts will attest) but on a personal level, perhaps one of the things I like best about him is that he’s a fellow word-person. He lives for puns, playing with language, word games.
Look at his work during this campaign – from an early blog post about his decision to keep his beard entitled “Whisker Campaign, or, What’s In A Mane?” to a proposal for SaskPharm – his love of language shines through.
It shines through in other ways too – Ryan speaks what, 18 languages or something? (Okay, I think he’s up to fluency in four or five and passable knowledge in a handful of others. But that’s another clear sign of a language lover.)
Why is his love of language and his fluency in different languages important? Well, besides being a testament to his formidable intelligence, when you think about it, one of the most fundamental aspects of politics is the ability to communicate – in blog posts and speeches and policy documents. Ryan has an outstanding ability to use words to make you excited or angry or perhaps even a bit wistful.
It’s amazing to watch Ryan communicate his ideas to people – he does it indirectly through his book of course but it’s also impressive to watch how he communicates, whether to a crowd in the hundreds at a debate, to a roomful of people during a coffee party or how he connects with people one-on-one.
*That* is what this party needs to renew itself and that’s another reason why I believe Ryan is the best choice for Sask NDP Leader.
Next – #7 – He Grew Up On A Farm