Familial legend has it that I started reading books when I was around three. The continuation of that legend is that I wrote a letter to the principal of my prospective elementary school and politely requested to start kindergarten at the age of four. Even though I was the central figure in these legends, I can’t honestly say if there’s any truth to them.
For pete’s sake, I was four.
I do remember being That Kid who would rather stay inside and read than go out and play on the jungle gym. Since I was an awkward, accident-prone, easily sunburned child, no one had a problem with this. While the rest of my class was shivering with fright over R.L. Stine, I was reading about homicidal gorillas smashing in unwitting explorers’ heads with stone paddles. While they giggled over the adventures of a mischievous little boy with the nickname of Fudge, I pondered the destructive capabilities of velociraptors reborn from the dust of time with a little help from modern science. My parents wouldn’t let me see “Jurassic Park” in the movie theater, but they did let me read the book – and anything else by Michael Crichton.
And so I did.
The list of books that I have devoured has since grown to include works by Lillian Jackson Braun, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, James Thurber, Garrison Keillor, and Jim Butcher – among many, many others. What do all of these authors have in common? They have inspired me to write down the stories that have been crawling through my mind for as long as I can remember. I started in spiral-bound notebooks pilfered from the office supply cupboard at home (sorry, Mom) and then progressed to digital form when I was given a 386 PC scavenged from my mom’s office. With the exception of a recent year’s block when my mind was on work-related matters, the words haven’t stopped. I’ve amassed countless hours of writing, thousands upon thousands of pages of text… and yet, other than carefully supervised releases to family and friends, I have not let anyone read my original work up until within the past year.
If I were to visualize all of the writing that I have done over the years I would be sitting on a veritable mountain of unpublished pages. I look over it from time to time and think, “Nobody wants to read this crap. Why do I even bother?” Then I realize that while some of it truly is crap that deserves to be burned before reading, some of it bears glimmers of promise and won’t develop to its full potential unless I let someone else look at it. It’s time for me to brave the jungle and let complete strangers judge the comparative merits of my creation… and while the Internet has trolls, at least it doesn’t have homicidal gorillas with stone paddles.
Someone out there wants to read what I have to say. I just have to find the courage to look for them.
While I cannot claim to be as talented as the writers that have inspired me, one thing that they do have that I can take away for my own use is courage. Every single one of them had at least one idea that they thought was worth sharing. Instead of sitting on it, they gave it to the world. While the merits of their writing might be debatable, at least they had the spine to try – and if met with rejection, as many are, try again. Like so many other things, I chose not to publish any of my writing up until now because I was afraid of being a failure.
Now I know that I cannot truly know success until I at least try.