I don’t know that there’s a day I am not grateful for Jessica West. Great writer, better person. Her friendship is sacred to me. As if I were not already possessing of ample reasons for this gratitude, add to that my heartfelt appreciation to Jess for nominating me for the Why I Write Blog Hop. That someone I think so much of thinks enough of me and my work to have nominated me is very humbling. I hope I may do justice to the question at hand. For it is in many ways akin to inquiring of me, Why Do I Breathe? Ya know: I write, therefore I am. Alas, let’s see if we can unearth a tad bit more than that.
To do so, we must do a little time travel. 35 years back, give or take. My nascent penchant for the written word had in fact burgeoned even earlier—I recall as a six-year-old scrawling 3-sentence long “stories” on any surface I could find, even if said tales more often than not were comprised chiefly of baseball stats. But it was at around 10 or so that something began to percolate inside me. Began to spark. We all need to belong in this world, to be wanted, needed, cherished, valued, appreciated, loved. “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” We all want to be good at something, to contribute. To find our calling, to find ourselves. From my earliest memories I understood there were many things I was not adept it, but perhaps a few things I was. Even as a young kid, I could hit a baseball a damn sight far; and, I could write.
I could write. How well, is for others to decide but all I know is from those earliest days, when I found myself writing, I had found myself, and to this day there is no other occupation in which I feel more me. I was a painfully shy kid and we often presume those kids have nothing to say but I bet most do. I bet most have plenty to say because they’ve held so much in but they’re watching and learning and soaking it all in. They’re burning with thoughts and feelings and life and voice. I had plenty to say. I have had the good fortune of hitting a few balls over the fence in baseball games, and crafting a good sentence—I mean a really good sentence—is that same kind of magic. Every writer reading this knows what I mean. A great sentence is your home-run, so circle the bases, or smoke a cigarette, pick your poison, but relish it. Then keep writing.
It’s funny because the real question for me might in fact be not why I wrote but rather why, for so many years, I didn’t? Excuses walk, but I reckon on one level, life happened—school, work, marriage, family—and these are all great things and take time but deep inside I knew—I’ve always known—I wanted to embed my literary dreams fully into my life. And so the real reason for the delay (a decades-long delay, mind you), was fear. Maybe a little laziness but mainly fear. When you understand you may be good at only a few things, it is a daunting notion to potentially discover you may not even be good at those. To try to realize your dream, and fail. To be judged, rejected. It is a real and understandable fear. But I’m a dad, and as a parent you know your kids are watching you. Less important than whether you succeeded, is whether you tried. Seven or eight years ago I got a great idea for a Young Adult Fantasy, inspired by the protective relationship between my eldest son and his little sister. I’d dabble, penning a page or two but then my energy and focus would wane, life would happen, and I’d drift away from it. For years. Around four years ago my young daughter—whose own literary embers were already beginning to glow—inquired of me why, in essence, I had given up on my dream. A year and a half later I’d finally finished a draft—an unceremoniously rough, crappy draft, as any first draft of literary mortals like me invariably is—but a completed draft nonetheless. In the last two years I’ve revised it several times, completed a draft of a literary novel, penned a dozen short stories, had the privilege of publishing some articles and short fiction, and will have my YA Fantasy book(and hopefully the sequels) published by Booktrope. I am grateful for the opportunity. I am grateful to Jessica West for being my friend and asking why I write, and to my brilliant and beautiful daughter for asking why I didn’t. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in a few years’ time but also suffused with the urgency of a middle-aged scribe (being perhaps polite to myself there) who realizes he has lost so much precious time and must now make the most of every second. I should be so much farther along in my journey but instead I am like a 45-year-old rookie, and maybe that’s okay too. For that passion still burns, and makes me believe it is not when you start but that you start and then, that you finish. That you write that story—that crappy first draft or if you’re one of those elite talents, maybe a great first draft. Whatever the case, do it. My daughter is anything but the painfully shy kid I was, but still, I want to be careful in how I support her dreams. I do not want to live vicariously through her or push her but rather, just cheer her on and help her enjoy the journey and stand by her through all the twists and turns. Cherish each moment as she shares her own unique voice.
So I write, I reckon, because writing is what I do. It’s me. And I hope to do as much of it as I can for the rest of my life. When all’s said and done, the totality of what I’ve written in some ways may compromise the fullest answer to why I write. Here, this, this is me. I guess that’s true for each of us, whether speaking literally of writing or of the pages we pen in the hearts and minds and lives of others, on the canvass of this thing called life. We all make our mark, contribute our verse. May we all find the freedom and opportunity to pursue our dreams, and find our voice.
Another dear friend—and absolute mega-writing-prodigy --who helped me find mine, is the amazing Amira K Makansi, who—like Jessica, is a rare and beautiful soul whose talent may be eclipsed only by her character. I know Amira is in the midst of an extremely hectic time in her life presently, so she should feel free to take her time with this, but I could not in good conscience fail to nominate her.
Thank you Jessica, thank you Amira, and thanks to all of you who comprise the myriad stars of the literary universe—writers, readers and dreamers alike. We need every one of you. You shine.