On Writing

If one is at a social gathering, say a holiday party of friends and acquaintances, introductions having been made and the inevitable discussion about one’s interests and hobbies comes up, admitting that you “like to write” borders on the level of awkwardness as admitting you like to glue Kewpie dolls together into large pyramids in your garage. Weird and perhaps harmless, but nonetheless antisocial.

What is it about writing that, unless you’re a published author with titles on the New York Times bestseller lists and making gazillions in royalties, admitting you do it places you in a category somewhere above politicians and telemarketers but below tax accountants and postal workers?

Perhaps this is why whenever I’m asked what I like to do I usually say something like, “Watch sitcoms.” It may not have more socially redemptive value, but at least my interlocutors understand that and can pigeonhole me among the “safe” nerdy set.

I have long aspired to “be a writer.” When I was in first grade I recall riding in our family’s dark green (so dark green it was almost black) Pontiac station wagon. To a first grader, it felt like a land ark. Now granted this memory comes down corridors nearly forty years long, but as I remember it I had in my lap a Big Chief tablet and one of those pencils the size of horses legs. I interrupted whatever I was doing at the time and asked my mom, translated into forty-four year old speak: “Will a publisher accept my manuscript if it’s written in pencil on Big Chief tablet paper?” Being a father of two young and precocious girls I understand what goes on in the mind of a parent while driving children on errands in the car and simultaneously running through mental checklists and responding to the random chatter of said children. I do not know whether or not my mom actually heard the question, and if so whether or not she actually took it seriously, and if so whether she had any definite knowledge of the subject. But I do remember the answer: “I think so.” Whether by intent or happenstance, the answer my mother gave set within my little first grade heart a desire that has never left. To be a writer.

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