When I was a young lad, I would sit at my little child-sized desk and chair out in the backyard under a shady tree with my crayons and a stack of blank paper and write and illustrate stories. Often my mom would bring me a PB & J sandwich* cut into four little squares and a glass of milk because that’s what moms did back then. My mind was always swirling with creative ideas which I had to capture on paper. I didn’t think of myself as a writer then. I was just a little boy who had better skills at imagining adventures than hitting home runs, so that’s what I did.
In school my favorite subject was English because it let me indulge my passion for writing and introduced me to the concept of reading for pleasure. I enjoyed the recognition my teachers bestowed upon me for my written works and felt so proud whenever they read my stories aloud to the class. Some teachers even went as far as to call my parents to gush about my “gift.” It was clear that whatever I decided to do in life, writing would be a meaningful part of it. I still didn’t think of myself as a writer then. I was just a student of the craft then, soaking up as much knowledge and style as I could.
In my college years I pursued a journalism degree and worked on the school paper for a couple years. I wrote a weekly humor column, editorials, features and news stories and thought that this was it. I felt so at home in the newsroom, chasing after deadlines, and sometimes spending long hours working on a story, but I loved every damn minute of it. My heroes back then were writers such as Hunter S. Thompson (the father of Gonzo Journalism) and Tom Robbins. I still didn’t think of myself as a writer, though. A writer was someone who was published, and I didn’t consider my limited exposure as a freelancer or student journalist as worthy of the title.
Now, more than 40 years later, I find myself in my own backyard, under a shady gazebo, drinking my coffee, and sitting at my patio table with my laptop. When I’m not working on a school assignment, I’m typing out stories or ideas for stories for my blog. While the realization of my dream of being a published writer still eludes me, that desire still burns within me as it did for that little boy who lived about two miles from here and who believed in himself, even if he couldn’t hit a curveball to save his life.
I know many bloggers here are or were professional writers and I am envious beyond words regarding their good fortunes and amazing skills. I also realize that there are many more like me who aspire to be writers and earn a living by using their talents and deep passion for the written word. To those people I have but one thing to say. Whether you are paid or not and whether your words ever reach a mass audience, I think of all of you as writers, and I am proud to count myself as included within your ranks.
Why the change of heart? Oh, I don’t know, maybe it’s the great swell of bloggy love and support from your comments whenever I have the occasion to post a story. Maybe it’s the realization that I don’t need someone or something to define who I am using some arbitrary criteria. Or maybe it was something as subtle as a Father’s Day gift from my daughter Lissa that drove the point home for me. The point is, I am a writer, and now I have the coffee cup to prove it.