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Scribo ergo sum[I write, therefore, I am]

"Do not go gentle into that good night" is the first line in a poem by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914–1953)

The dreaded “Senior Moment”, memory lapses, cognitive decline, moment of forgetfulness, mental lapse, absent-mindedness, and my personal favorite: brain fart. There are many more; all quite descriptive and somewhat insulting descriptions of the condition we all seem to experience as we age.

Writing is what I’m, well, writing about here. Writing as a way to maintain, or even improve, our cognitive health as we age. Cognitive Health – is the ability to clearly think, learn, and remember — is an important component of performing everyday activities.

There are many different types of writing, from novels to recipes, shopping lists to doctor prescriptions. Writing is our way of preserving knowledge, communicating to one, or many, a reminder to ourselves, or a note in a lunch pail telling our partner “I love you”.

Writing. That thing we were required to do from the moment we stepped foot in kindergarten, or even earlier. Write your name, write your address, write about your summer vacation, even write an excuse for your brother for missing school.

We mostly all know how to read and write. We know our ABC’s, and we know how to string letters together to form words. Words are our thoughts, our feelings, and an expression of self. If you put the right words together, you have a story. Putting those words on paper, or a computer screen, allows us to share those stories. We have words written in clay, thousands of years old, that tell a timeless story across the centuries, even though the author’s name may be lost in the mists of time, his ideas are still here.

Writing can express the most intimate thoughts or help win wars. One of my favorite movies is “Patton”. One of my favorite lines in it is when Patton is waiting in the desert to ambush Rommel’s tank core is “Rommel, you magnificent bastard. I read your book!

We here at the Lake Country Echo, have a number of talented and experienced writers. Some, like myself, write a monthly column based on a subject that we feel knowledgeable about, and some write feature stories. Some, like our fearless leader and editor, Robert, like to write about what the rest of us are writing about.

What we all have in common is that we write for others to read.

It ain’t that easy to do. The act of writing requires you to place your thoughts into words, and then sentences and so on, until you are communicating. The newspaper business is all about communicating, hopefully presenting our thoughts in a way that can be enjoyed, understood and comprehended by you, the reader.

As above, and it bears repeating, “it ain’t easy”, but it sure is satisfying to know that your reader can see your point of view on a subject, whether they agree or not.

To be clear and understandable, there are rules of writing that are taught to us in our youth. For those of you with a Catholic educational experience, these rules were probably reinforced with a ruler across the knuckles.

To illustrate; comma’s. These next two sentences differ only in comma placement, but change the meaning drastically

· Let’s eat, grandpa

· Let’s eat grandpa.

I’m good with the first, and a little worried about the second.

We have a variety of people contributing stories to this paper; each of us is an individual with our own styles and techniques of writing. In some cases a writer will get out a piece of paper and a pen to put their thoughts down, in other cases we use a computer program and write using a keyboard. Writing can be done pretty much any other way you can think of to express our thoughts and provide them to you.

All of us have come to enjoy the writing process. It is a process that involves write, edit, review, edit, review, get someone else to read it, get feedback, edit, review. Repeat as needed. It’s different for everyone.

We all have come to writing from very different paths and backgrounds, yet we have writing for this paper in common. So, like any good paper, we’ll start with a few words from the owner and editor, Robert:

“One of the most difficult things to do is to write well. As we get older our brains begin to deteriorate. They also fall apart with certain life crisis. The brain has the characteristics of a muscle. The more you use it, the more you tax it with slightly deeper problems that challenge it, the greater it will serve you. People who decide to return to school after several years often find this to be true.”

Ed Rouse, who weaves stories and experiences about growing up in Livingston County, tells us he “agrees that the more we use our brain the better it will be. It will "stay fit" so to speak. I also read a lot. I find that reading really helps my brain to remain sharp as it presents new and different ideas and thoughts... “

“I have always written. Today, I find that the more I write the more I want to write. I do not write every day and I do not always finish a piece right away. It may take me weeks of editing to complete something, but I find that a good thing because I am going back and forth in my mind, continually adding or subtracting and that has to be a good thing.”

“For me, writing is a pleasure, but more so a "release". Many things in this world may bother me or confuse me or something in nature may reach out to me or a person may say something that inspires me and I will sometimes write about these things. Sometimes I will just make a note and eventually come back to it, but in the end I will write. So yes, I am helping my brain in so many ways. Just the simple act of coming back to something in regards to a note I may have made makes my brain work to a degree that others may not have their brain work. When I am finally done with something, I find a great sense of pleasure and accomplishment and that alone has to be a good thing.”

From Barbara Van Zandt [our primary news writer]; after retiring from a 30 year career as a high school and college English instructor, and deciding to reinvent herself. “At age 60 or older, it is possible to learn new concepts, new vocabulary, new ways of doing things and thinking not considered before, simply by challenging the brain with the same passion some people challenge their muscles at the gym.”

She states “Old age does not mean you will get dementia, or even a "bad memory." So many people retire and just lay around, not exercising their brain at all, and so they lose ground, instead of gaining ground, intellectually. They stop reading and writing. They don't do reasoning and challenging math or logic problems. They get rusty."

Then there is me, the photographer. I write a monthly column on photography, and I also write occasional feature pieces as well as stories of my dog, Kooper. [See] Why do I write? I could get all noble and say that it’s to pass on my knowledge. I could say that I found that it’s much easier to express my thoughts when I have the ability to review and edit, as well as providing thoughtful and relevant information. I could also claim that I had to do a lot of creative writing while working at a local tech giant for 35 years or yet more creative writing on the way to graduating from college.

It’s all of that, it’s none of that, and it’s more than that. I write because I find that I can express myself; it’s my most effective way of communicating. This is me being social, putting myself out there. It’s just plain fun for me. I practice my writing when I compose emails. I dislike texting because it’s short. No real story, and I like to tell a story. Oh yea, I think it’s keeping me sharper as I age. At least I hope it is. Isn’t it?

The line from the poem at the top of the article means many different things to people. To me, it represents a state of mind, a goal to meet, a challenge to overcome. To meet that challenge, and a challenge it can be, we must protect and even enhance, our cognitive health, especially as we age.

The common theme with our writers is that we all have learned that writing helps us remember. Remember, remembering is a huge part of our own mental health as we age. Writing something down makes it memorable. Who knew that the three Rs; Readin', Ritin' and 'Rithmetic that we learned all those years ago would actually come in handy and help keep us alive and independent all these years later. Go and make some memories and share your stories; I’m glad I wrote this one down.

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