Monday, June 3, 2013

Writing Challenge with Author, Karl Larsen!!

The Challenge:
In 2000 words or less, write about an issue that you are passionate about. Be creative, make a story, or an essay, poem...whatever you choose! This is your chance to showcase your skills to readers!
The Result :
The Day I Asked Myself the RIGHT Question
 Karl Larsen

The day I asked myself the right question just so happened to be the day I unearthed the most unexpected of passions. In the spring of 2010, while blazing my own path as an inexperienced writer, I found myself pecking at my laptop, for hours on end, as if it were my job. In reality, it was my job. Writing had been something I had always loved to do, but simply never did. At the time, inspiration was all around me and, once again, writing emerged as an escape from myself. But this time, it was different, and so was my material. My thoughts and feeling about my life and the events I had overcome paved the way for a new kind of thinking. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to revisit the dark secrets from my past that had since been long ignored, trying to make sense of my life and what was next for me, uncovering vital components in my search for inner peace, future success and an as-yet undiscovered passion. It wasn't long before a collection of ideas, thoughts and recordings became something much, much bigger. My soon-to-be book was more than my job; it was my life.

I often wrote from the comfort of my own home. It definitely had its perks. Days when the weather was nice were the worst. Those were the days I'd gaze out my sliding glass door into the back yard which was canopied by large oak and pine trees. I loved nothing more than spending my day outside, so being cooped up in the house often drove me stir-crazy. Days when focusing on my work was impossible, another escape was needed —an escape FROM my escape. Having the attention span of a gnat didn't help either. To get away and recollect, I'd seek refuge on one of the many paved walkways that weave and tunnel through my neighborhood and wooded areas. There, I'd relax and piece together my next entry or go into deep thought about the world and the meaning of life. I wasn't far into my project when the effects of what I was writing began to toy with my reasoning. I still had yet to understand and harness the ideas tumbling around in my head, one of which just so happened to be the topic of passion. I had yet to find it.

Late that spring, while walking, a candy bar wrapper blew into the creek alongside the walking path. Before it could be washed away, I quickly veered a couple of feet, reached down and picked it up. A trashcan wasn't but fifty feet away, just around the bend. I continued walking, scanning the ground for litter scattered along the path. Let's just say, it was more than I wanted to carry. At this point, focusing on anything but litter was nearly impossible! A feeling came over me in a way I couldn't ignore. Who was overdue for a good deed? This guy. So I turned back to the house, grabbed some gloves and a shopping bag, to spruce up the area. While in search for anything glass, paper, plastic or aluminum, the more I saw, the more I picked up, and the more I picked up, the further I went. In less than ten minutes, my bag was full and I wasn't even five minutes from my home! I thought to myself, “Maybe the issue was bigger than I realized…” Little did I know what was in store for me.

Later that week, I visited the local big box home improvement store to purchase a "picker-upper-grabby-thingy." At least, that's what I always called them. The plastic shopping bags I had hoarded and stuffed into a cabinet in my kitchen for no particular reason would suffice for this mission. Without planning to venture too far from the house, bags upon bags were stuffed. I was amazed. Too scared to venture out onto the main boulevard from which my road fed — the challenge frightened me — I didn't try. A month or so passed. I kept writing, still contemplating whether or not to take on the challenge of one of the busiest boulevards in town. I traveled down it multiple times a day. With my eyes now opened to all the debris, it was disgusting, to say the least.

Soda and beer cans rested in the gutter along the curb. Plastic bags blew in the wind. Shards of glass and aluminum sparkled in the medians. Plastic bottles rolled across the street, and paper took refuge in the wooded areas along the heavily traveled mini interstate. What was I up against? One of the largest shopping areas in the state just a half-mile away, a major interstate and two more boulevards come together in my community. Countless big box retailers, drive-through restaurants, banks, gas stations, hotels, movie theaters, car dealerships, strip malls, churches, apartments and even a theme park — all surrounding one massive mall. And all of it spilled into my community of about 500 houses and a couple of apartment complexes. This wasn't going to be easy. The big question was whether or not I could do it all on my own.

I remember getting angry at the fact that people would commit such a thoughtless act as littering. It just didn't make sense to me. Directing my anger at the city and the non-profits who supposedly had programs in place to deal with the issue, or so I thought, didn't solve anything. I asked myself, over and over again, "Why isn't anybody doing anything about this?" One day I finally asked myself the right question: "Why am I not doing anything about it?" And from that moment on, it became a personal goal to single-handedly change my community. I didn't want help. I didn't need an organization, committee or group of volunteers. I just needed to do it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and, even more so, prove the power of one. So that's what I did. Sixteen heavy-duty trash bags later, I had completed my mission. Feeling accomplished, I knew my work was far from over. To keep from having this ever happen again, I got in contact with a local non-profit organization that allowed me to continue doing this under their umbrella. Not long after, it was official. I had adopted a section of highway. The signs are up and dedicated to my now-finished book, W a n t.

For the last year and a half, it may be safe to say that I've made a difference in my community. It's visible. Once a week, I set time apart from my schedule to do my duty as a citizen of my city, county and state. I've gone off the beaten path, picking up in wooded areas, residential areas, parking lots, creeks, ponds, you name it. I've traveled to other cities to help others with their Adopt-A-Highway efforts in hopes of keeping it going. Just recently, I implemented plans to take my project to the next level by creating, designing and instituting a citywide campaign to restore my city's beauty and amplify its potential. My vision is to push my city and state into the forefront of beautification and pride, and it all starts from the ground up.

This is my passion. And this is only the beginning. Honestly, I owe it all to my book. Without it, I can't be sure that I would have found this passion or any other love. Passion is inside of all of us, waiting to be captured and harnessed. If we step back and take a quick glance at what we're NOT doing as opposed to what we are doing, the answer will always present itself. The power of one can change the world — even if it's one word at a time. As much as I love this challenge, I have realized I must cut myself short, for I must prepare for yet another big challenge. I'm meeting with the mayor in less than 48 hours from now about my project so I must sign off. Thank you, for this wonderful opportunity.

 For More on Karl Larsen: