It was August 2021.
I told my mom that “I was finally finishing a book and starting a blog.”
“In second grade your teacher gave a creative writing assignment every Friday afternoon,” my mom said. “After you finished writing, you went to Mrs. Newton’s desk and asked if you could share your story with the class. She was caught off guard, but let you read your story anyway. Kids stopped working on their assignments and listened to you read. You had the whole class captivated. They loved it.” She laughed. “After you were done, other kids raised their hands to read their stories. Some scrambled to finish theirs, so they could read them to the class. After that Friday, Mrs. Newton made sure to leave enough time for the class to share their creative writing stories.”
She didn’t seem surprised, but it wasn’t because I was your typical dream chasing millennial struggling between a higher calling, existential dread, and putting food on the table during a pandemic.
It was a sweet story that I had forgotten about.
Moms are wonderful like that.
“The class made you read your stories every Friday,” she continued. “Mrs. Newton said your classmates always wanted you to go last because you wrote the best stories.”
It’s a cute memory, one I’ll cherish forever.
But it’s one thing to impress a bunch of second graders.
It’s another thing to be a good writer.
So, what makes a writer?
The only way for me to remain semi-sane is to write.
I don’t know if my writing is any good.
Maybe I’m a hack.
But I know there’s a lot worse published out there.
That doesn’t mean I’m a writer.
When I was a little boy, I wrote books for my parents. I’d draw pictures and scribble underneath them, having my parents staple the pages together to make a book. I’d read them the scribbles since only I knew what they meant. Hell, I was writing before I grasped the English language.
I wrote and read every day as soon as I was capable. It wasn’t a quick read or write either. It was hours upon hours. My parents have stacks of things I’ve written for them – books, letters, cards – I’d write anything and everything. I just needed to write.
As a teenager I’d wake myself up in the middle of the night, sneak downstairs to my basement, where my family computer was, and write in the darkness. My parents caught me multiple times, thinking I was a horny teen browsing Napster late at night (which I also was), so they’d ground me. Too embarrassed to admit that I was staying up late to write, I’d take the punishment.
Anything to protect my words.
I was afraid they’d make me stop writing if they knew the truth.
My high school notebooks were filled with thoughts, lines and stories. I’d finish and expand stories I started in English class during my math and science classes. Math and science didn’t interest me. It was too rigid. My friends would spend weekends looking for alcohol and trouble, I’d stay home and write. (Until my senior year of high school when I discovered the joy of booze.)
Notebooks and journals plastered with my words are scattered all over my place. There are hard drives, and laptops filled with my ramblings. I even wrote a superhero trilogy of books in high school. (Somehow they’re worse than any DC Comics movie.)
I chose a degree and career where creativity and writing were mandatory job requirements. I’d get to use my words to turn corporate bullshit into polished copy while convincing people something terribly boring was actually interesting.
During work meetings, if a good line or thought popped in my head, I’d write it down and start writing, completely ignoring what was going on around me.
It’s all noise.
Everything but the writing.
I still ditch my friends to write. When I’m happy, I write. When I get sad, I write. When I get stressed, I take it out on the word. When I get mad, I punch the keys on my laptop.
It’s a sickness.
Yet, that doesn’t make me a writer.
Before the pandemic, I kept trying to write in an exotic way.
It wasn’t me.
The brutal truth.
Whether pretty or not.
That was me.
And here I am.