Monday, August 5, 2013

For My Friend Roland Lazenby, a Change of Career

Roland with his most recent biography, this one of Jerry West.
My friend Roland Lazenby has so many superlatives before his name when I mention it in most cases that I threaten my credibility with praise. Roland deserves every word, though.

He's a fine writer--nearly 60 books to his credit--an extraordinary teacher, one of the best newspapermen I ever worked with, a wonderful father and husband, a superb mentor and a good friend.

Today on Facebook, Roland wrote what appears below, a look inside his world that is worth your attention. He begins with an admission I find hard to believe and follows it with a trail of exhaustive examples of what led to his admission. I think every writer I know has felt this and I know Roland will be one to emerge a better person, better writer, better human being--though he didn't need improvement in any of those areas. Here's what he wrote:

"Hard to admit this, but I was an absolutely terrible teacher at Radford University this year, totally burned out after three years of month after month of high-pressure writing on deadline, seven days a week.

"I just pancaked, thoroughly and completely depleted of every ounce of energy, even of synapse. I'd always wondered what it would be like to drown, the sense of helplessness, the paralysis, the gradual loss of brain function. The only way I knew I was alive, finally, was the humiliation I felt. Thank God for that.

"It let me know there were some nerve endings left at the bottom of all that emptiness. I had flirted with this before, having done so many projects over so many years. But this last project was so hard, with demands at every place I turned, I finally drifted into a great fog. I actually did that two different times during this last project, which proved to be bottomless in terms of the challenges and demands it presented. I just gave everything I had only to realize I had to come up with far more than I ever imagined. 

Roland teaching at Writers Series.
"This was hard for me to recognize because I've always been blessed with some mysterious vast aquifer of energy, and I'd never really considered that I could somehow empty it. I had always been a pretty good teacher, flawed but able to bring legitimate passion. 

"With my passion evaporated, I was exposed. It was emotionally destructive to fail like I did, to stand helpless at the slow motion train wreck that was my classroom and my professional life. I had always heard my mentor at VMI, the great Dr. Dean Foster, talk about the need for renewal. I didn't grasp what he was talking about. So now the next phase of my life becomes all about renewal. 

"I'm selling radio advertising. 

"For years I had advised my students to go sell radio advertising if they wanted to have a media career in this new age of depleted revenue for the media industry. I always told them they had to pioneer ways to finance reporting and information for the community. The best lab, I said, was radio. So now I'm taking my own advice, as the marketing director for six ESPN radio stations in Virginia. 

"What a blessing this has been, challenging and creative and totally different than the onslaught of teaching and writing I've pursued for the past 20 years. I love it, feeling my energy flow back into my mind with all the new learning I'm doing. It has brought with it a new sense of purpose and direction. 

"Best of all, I will never torture another class of young minds and lead them astray, the sort of sin for which there is no redemption. That's got to be worth something, right?"

Let me predict that Roland will set a new standard in radio for ad sales. He's that kinda guy. 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post. I remember connecting with Roland shortly after he left the Times and was establishing FREE COURT PRESS, perhaps with his first book. This is great what you are doing with the Blog, Dan........................