To say the least I’m a right brain thinker: all that spacial reasoning, strong perceptual ability, my senses work well, I appreciate natural esthetics, yet mildly dyslexic, I have a hard time paying attention to things that I don’t want to. I hated school, I loved to learn– I never really read anything that was assigned to me. I did not discover the pleasure of reading fiction until I was in my thirties. I never admitted that I did not like to read. My teachers thought I was a bright kid, so I got away with it. I figured there was too much out there in the world to ever have to spend time experiencing it second hand– that is, written down. I reckon when the learning I needed to actually apply to the things I was really doing started to connect– things like faith and the science I use in my profession started being meaningful, I allowed myself the space to read. I discovered at this time that I could vicariously live the experiences of words on page. Maybe I had to get a little older and able to connect my own experiences to fiction, maybe I have to admit that I am a little ridden hard and put away wet and the characters were getting more interesting than my adventures.
In the past decade I found some of my favorite things to read. Foremost among them were the works of Cormac McCarthy. Two years ago read some of Hemingway’s writing on fishing, then the The Big Woods by Faulkner, and happened into a A Place More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. Something about the experience of reading these three made a connection and I decided to sit down and write. I have never written before. I do not consider myself a writer, just a tooth-smith playing the part of a word-smith like a little girl with a chalk board playing school teacher in her bedroom. There was something about Cash. Something about his story and something about his story as a writer that made me want to try it. Wiley Cash grew up in the same town as me, but we never met each other- I was a couple of years older than him. Growing up his name would circle back around. Adults that mutually knew us would tell me about this guy that was a lot like me. A kid talked like me and would clown around like me. Perhaps Wiley was one of those kids in school that was like me, just enough of a disruption to a teacher that she knew that she had to raise her game. Some pride got in my way. I figured if this guy from little old Gastonia could write a book, then maybe I could too. His themes, settings, and thinking had such a familiarity and resonance. One day I was sitting on porch and I started writing and I wrote and I wrote and about 75,000 words later I claimed that I had written a novel and self published it. I never had it edited, very few people have read it. Very few people will. I confess that pride had me believe it was probably pretty good (I have no idea). But it felt damn good.
I have still yet to meet Wiley, but I had the occasion to hear him speak for a bit at our local library this week. Somehow in the wild world of social media I found out that he was going to be there and dropped my fork at the diner table and drove over. I showed up five minutes late- he was already talking. Over a sea of grey and bald heads I listened from the back row. I was fascinated with his experiences. He had great stories and in his speaking I could hear where his writing came from. He was one of those people, a great perceiver. I think I immediately understood why all those mommas told me I should meet this kid from a couple of neighborhoods over named Wiley. When I listened to his process for writing and his intention, the notion that I am not a writer was fortified. (I guess I should have payed a little more attention when they were diagraming sentences and teaching literary structure instead of sketching pictures of what was outside the window.)
One of the most rewarding experiences I have had in years has been sitting in a vacuum, on porches with a laptop and my imagination and memories to muse over. Writing is a new found passion, a place were I can attach the things I have seen, the way that I have felt, even a place where I can make the stories that I bring home a little better than I experienced them. Those fish just get bigger. I have to thank Wiley Cash for inspiring me with his words and story. When you know something new, you can’t look back to the ignorance you had before- I guess I need (and desire) to make the time to learn how to be a writer.