A boomer finds the perfect metaphor: a musket

Some of the nation’s best writers are baby boomers. But it takes a lot to be good at it. From Downers Grove, near Chicago, Harold Witkov has found his own way to write. And he found it on a battlefield. With a metaphor from long ago.

I love Gettysburg. And the antique stores! It is like walking through small quaint museums— only everything is for sale.

It’s been almost 25 years since I last visited Gettysburg. It was in one of those antique stores that the owner explained to me the difference between a musket and a rifle. He said that an old-time musket had a long hollow barrel and fired a round ball. Its accuracy was limited. The inside barrel of a rifle, on the other hand, is grooved. The grooves cause a fired ball to spin. This spinning action makes the bullet travel straight and true.

Harold Witkov with a collection of musket balls.

“How fascinating,” thought the history buff in me. “How very intriguing,” thought the writer in me.

Like most writers, I want my stories to fly true and have an impact. But I have learned that many of them are like musket balls fired through a hollow barrel. Writing about interesting personal experiences is never enough. So I take those little slice-of-life vignettes and link them to something much greater in scope, in a way not before considered. In short, I connect my own dots. To make sure my stories fly straight as a bullet, I put my very own spin on them.

Musket ball collection and currency dating to the Civil War.

Now for some writers and journalists, spin can be a dirty word, a definite no-no. Spin means manipulation and propaganda. But I’m not writing about propaganda spin. I’m writing about the sincere writer finding a way to connect with his or her readers.

And here is where the use of a great metaphor can be so helpful, especially for a baby boomer. But, you may ask, can a writer be guilty of stretching a metaphor too far? Yes, if the writer is hollow on the inside. But if he is from the ‘60s, is a groovy guy, and has a groovy kind of love of writing, then he can get away with it.


  1. Harold, I can’t believe I just saw this article today. I am glad I was double checking my emails. This article, like the others was written with such heart. Thanks, as always, for sharing with us.

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