|Education of a Wandering Man |
by Louis L'Amour
L'Amour always knew he wanted to write - as he was a storyteller. His early years of traveling, he worked various jobs like mining, being a hobo, being a seaman, along with other jobs, as well as fighting as a boxer to improve his education and to learn stories and backgrounds for stories he would later write. I found the stories he included of hobos interesting, as the original hobos in the 1920s and 30s were a far different man than today. Hobos in L'Amour's time were hard-working men traveling the country by catching the rails to work any job that needed to be done before traveling to the next job. L'Amour would stay in one location long enough to earn money to travel to the next location, and have time to frequent local taverns, eateries, and other places men would gather to learn the local stories from the men who lived them. He also spent much time in local libraries and bookstores to continue reading. He read any book he could get his hands on, from popular stories, poetry, history, politics, economics, obscure titles and so on. He also wrote when he had time, but this was infrequent during his wandering years. This was all part of his education.
After moving his parents to Oklahoma, his life took a different direction and he started writing more, researching anything that interested him, which was mainly people - how they lived, what they did, their culture, and history, especially those on the frontier - any frontier - not necessarily the West, although he is most well-known for his stories of the Western frontier. L'Amour also researched other successful writers to learn how to improve his writing. He submitted his writings from poetry, short stories, and novels to many publishers and magazines, not waiting to hear back before submitting another manuscript. He didn't take rejections personally, but as a tool to continue to improve his storytelling.
Even after L'Amour became a successful writer, he still strove to continue to improve his writing, doing his own research, reading, and building his library of books. He feels that anyone can get an education by reading. He kept a list of books he read, which is very extensive, as he read 100 or more books every year. He built a library collection of those books that most interested him, especially those that talked of man's history and people's cultures.
I have read several of L'Amour's books and enjoyed every single one. I have also enjoyed many of the movies that were created from his books. One interesting tidbit I really found fascinating is that L'Amour was at Camp Hood, Texas for training for WWII at the same time my father was at Camp Hood, Texas doing his infantry training for WWII. That helped put L'Amour's life in more perspective for me, realizing that he and my father are of the same generation.
I admire L'Amour's artistry as a writer. He persevered through many rejections, he continually strove to improve, and he never stopped learning. I think these are qualities that any artist would do well to model - learn from other successful artists, never stop learning about our chosen area of art, keep improving, and continually submit work for shows or publications, in spite of any rejections.
I think this was a book worth reading and would recommend it to others. Also, I would like to read some of the books included in L'Amour's list of books he read.
Next month's book is Frida: a biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera.
Happy New Year!!