By Alan Resnick / Detroit
For me, there were two wonderful outcomes of the pandemic. First, all my loved ones are still here. Second, it provided me the opportunity to fulfill a 60-year dream of writing something creative that got published. So The Insider has been a godsend for me.
I’ve written a thesis and a dissertation, and also co-authored a couple of psychological journal articles. But that was never the type of writing I intended to do back when I was young.
My interest in writing was sparked when I first picked up a copy of Mad magazine. I was probably 12 or 13. It was the greatest thing I had ever read: sophomoric, sly and sarcastic. People could make a career out of writing like this?
Like many of the contributors to The Insider, I was educated in the Oak Park, Mich. school system. And I was blessed with terrific English teachers – Sheila Horowitz, Shirley Citron, and Thelma Rosenbaum to name just a few.
But my favorite teachers in any classes I had at any level were Barbara Goldsmith and Mel Merzon, who co-taught Creative Writing in high school. Each week, we received a new writing form to explore, anything from a short story to a limerick. And our graded papers were handed back with both written comments and audio comments on a cassette tape.
I’d rush home from school, go to my room, read their comments and listen to their audio comments. And then I’d replay the tape. And then I’d replay it again. And I’d listen to it again the next day. Their feedback left me wanting to pursue writing as a career.
So I started college at Wayne State University in Detroit in the fall of 1969, intending to major in English. While I was completing prerequisite courses in preparation for electives, the Mary Tyler Moore Show debuted in 1970. I absolutely adored it. And I couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun it must be to be in the writers’ room and create scripts like those.
Regrettably, my college English courses were nowhere near the quality of those in high school. Ironically, the course that led me to change majors was a Creative Writing elective.
Mrs. Goldsmith and Mr. Merzon set a very high bar, so in hindsight I probably entered the class with unrealistic expectations. But I was totally unprepared for the three minutes I attended this course.
The professor had not yet arrived when I got there, so I grabbed a seat in my preferred location, the back row. A few minutes later, a guy who looked like he had just rolled out of bed entered the room.
He sat on the edge of the instructor’s desk facing us. He had a beard, a tie-dyed T-shirt, and was wearing sandals. As his feet dangled, he pulled out a joint from his pant pocket and lit it. After taking a long toke, he looked slowly around the room, exhaled and announced: “This semester we’re going to read and write poetry.”
And I still remember saying to myself: “Oh no we’re not.” I got up, walked out of the classroom, went to the registrar’s office, and dropped the class, all in time to get to my class that started the next hour.
So I became a psych major and took an elective course in Experimental Psychology. In addition to learning how to design, conduct, and statistically analyze experiments, we learned how to write up experimental results in compliance with the standards of the American Psychological Association (APA).
The APA format is highly structured, detached and bone dry, designed for academics, not the casual reader. But I enjoyed the challenge of it. And it gave me the chance to toss around fancy words and terms like “orthogonal” and “vis-à-vis.”
I became very proficient at this more technical, drier style of writing, and it served me well both in graduate school and in my professional career as an industrial psychologist. I’ve written presentations, training programs, user manuals, test questions and literally hundreds of psychological assessment reports. And while it was satisfying, I still had that decades-old itch sparked by Alfred E. Neuman.
Social media actually provided me the first real outlet for writing more creatively in 2009. I’d comment on Facebook about friends’ posts, remark about things I had read or seen on TV and share what I hoped were humorous anecdotes about things that happened while at work.
Merrill Lynn Katz Hansen, an Oak Park classmate, Facebook friend, and early contributor to The Insider, messaged me and told me about the fledging publication. She knew that I liked to write and encouraged me to submit something.
I had an abundance of free time on my hands since my office was closed because of Covid. So I sent Andrea Sachs, the editor and publisher, an introductory email along with an idea for a story about not missing sports after the pandemic shut things down. That first story ended up being the cover article. And so it began.
Contributing to The Insider over the past three years has truly fulfilled my boyhood dream. It's proved to be exhilarating, creative, challenging, but also relaxing. Time seems to fly by when I sit down and begin to put a story together. And it’s given me the chance to collaborate, albeit remotely, with some wonderful writers
I owe an immense amount of gratitude to Andrea. She has been a superb teacher and mentor. Andrea has made me a better and more confident writer. She kept me from being lazy with language, pushing me to think of fresher, more interesting ways to say things. And she provided me license to write about whatever I wanted to, be it snarky or serious, be it about sports, politics, the world of work during Covid, or even losing my cell phone at Costco.
I also want to acknowledge the wisdom of and feedback from John Rolfe, who served as an editor for many of my earlier pieces. Much like Mrs. Goldsmith and Mr. Merzon, I always looked forward to John’s emails and our phone conversations. His comments and edits were both supportive and insightful. And John provided criticism with a very gentle touch.
Finally, thank you to Insider readers if you invested the time to read this or any of my pieces over the last three years. And I’m beyond grateful if you left a comment on a story. They’ve meant the world to me.
Alan Resnick is an industrial psychologist with over 40 years of professional experience. He and his wife are sheltering at home in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is passing the time by cooking, exercising, catching up on friends’ recommendations of must-see TV and writing.