After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

To Ancient Rome, and Hollywood Glory, in a Lunch Hour

Posted on June 18, 2013
Filed Under Technology, The Writing Life | Leave a Comment

Watch what you’re doing on your lunch hour – consider it, even, a time of imaginative opportunity. James Erwin, a technical writer in Des Moines, Iowa, decided on one of his lunch hours awhile back to respond to a question he’d seen on the Reddit social networking site: “Could a battalion of U.S. marines, transported back in time, destroy the entire Roman Empire?”

imageErwin started to draft a story outline on his lunch hour. By the time his break was up, he’d posted eight pages of a story he entitled “Rome Sweet Rome.” It kind of went viral. By the time he got home from work that day, Erwin’s outline had had 250,000 readers, and he had a contact from a talent management firm in Los Angeles that liked his concept – “the diary of a U.S. marine whose battalion is mysteriously transported from Afghanistan to ancient Rome.”

Now, two years later, a movie script for “Rome Sweet Rome” is almost done and ready to be sent to a movie production company. Ah, creativity! You never know when the muse will alight in your consciousness! In Erwin’s case, it was after he’d completed thousands of pages of technical manuals and related writing over a 10-year “apprenticeship.” Now he’s a budding screenwriter, receiving checks that are too big, apparently, to talk about. And he’s back to his old technical writing rounds with a greatly enhanced sense of how one’s imagination can be sparked by an oddball inspiration.

Erwin attributes his evident screenwriting success, at least this once, to the gritty routine of technical writing. “I think” he reflects “(that) just having that sort of apprenticeship and the ability to sit down, block things out and just start typing, I couldn’t have put out eight pages in an hour and I certainly couldn’t have possibly written a screenplay three months later without that.”

So, while you may “only” be writing a procedure  for operating one sort of pump or another, be ever mindful that what you’re doing can lead to somewhere greater – like the gates of ancient Rome. Especially these days, when your writing skill can spark a virtually instant Internet reception. – Doug Bedell


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