You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world. ~
I fell in love with writing at a very early age. I’ve kept journals throughout my life and they have been some of the only things I’ve held onto in my many moves. Next to my faith, my body of work is the greatest heritage I hope to leave. One of my greatest regrets in life is the day I discarded a collection of love letters never sent. I did it out of embarrassment and a senseless notion that I needed to do in order to forsake all others. Losing these was like undergoing heart surgery. I can still function, stronger in many ways. But there is missing tissue and the scar will never heal.
I’ve never been one to keep my writing to myself. I am somewhat of an exhibitionist when it comes to my work. Hell, somewhat? I am an exhibitionist! Before the ink dries, I am reading it to someone, trying to entertain them, feeding off their attention. One assignment we were given in 5th grade was to memorize a poem then recite it in class. I chose, “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. I loved the rhythm, the hyperbole, the twist at the end:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.
Even before I had done my recitation, I wrote my first poem — “An Ode to My Pet Rock” and asked to share it with the class. They laughed. I was a hit.
One of the most formative lessons I drew from Catcher in the Rye is that conversational writing could actually be worth reading. I could put the voices inside my head down on paper and people could identify with me; I could make them laugh; and, while I never tested this theory, I might just get laid.
My senior year I took two big steps to advance my writing career. First I joined the newspaper staff, and second, I wrote a farcical memoir of our class. The editor for our student newspaper was Jenny Mitchell, a sweet girl with a good head on her shoulders. Jenny was the first to teach me to KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid. I was good with this first because I had yet to develop an expansive vocabulary and second, because I did not want to leave my hillbilly heritage behind by sounded too high-fallutin’.
My second advance was inspired by two young men with adolescent angst from the class of 1980. Dave Bertolet and Mark Dile. “The Big One” was a collection of stories about the quirks of cliques and the friendship of two boys trying to navigate their way through it. It was not brilliant literature, but it was an inspiring romp through territory I was traveling with many I knew. So, in tribute to my alum elders, I wrote, “No Biggy.” It was a blast. Not great literature by any means, but people loved it. No sooner would I draft a story than someone would snatch it up and pass it along. I was a hit. I didn’t get laid, but it was almost as good.