A determined kid can achieve most anything he sets out to do. I consider my early writing years to be those between the ages of four and nine when I placed my index finger on my first Royal typewriter and “published” my first poem on a piece of paper easily 20 years older than I was. This singular act was thrilling beyond what I could have ever imagined. The thrill never left me. I was a poet. I was a writer. The poem, about a dog chasing a fox, was a flop. Forced rhymes, mundane theme, poor word choices. But it wasn’t so much the actual poem that made me a writer, it was the act of putting the words on paper, arranging them in a way that was pleasing to me and said what I wanted to say, in a way I wanted to say it. All the learning of parts of speech, sentence construction, figurative language, tense, structure, and all those other things, were still in my future. Here’s how it unfolded.
I was visiting my father in his office, a gray shack in the middle of a field. Technically it was my grandfather’s “field office”. My grandfather owned and managed oil fields and my father fixed derricks. A multi-purpose place, mysteriously filled with machinery, tools, cabinets, and dust, it provided plenty to capture the attention of a youngster. But of all the things to do and see, I was drawn to an older model shiny black Royal typewriter sitting on a battered wooden desk. In the desk drawer was a sheath of paper in a notebook my dad said was left over from his college days. He showed me how to feed the paper and pound the keys to make ink appear. And I had to pound the keys. Lucky for me I typed with one finger so the long stalks that attached the keys to the letters did not mash together as they did later on when I learned to type faster. Beaming with pride I displayed the poem to my father and he said it was good. Hearty praise from a man of little words.
Ray Bradbury once said “Run fast, stand still. This the lesson from lizards. For all writers.” I hadn’t read those words yet, but I believed they were true. Write as though your life depended on it. Write fast and often. Write everything that was in your heart and you would surely find your calling. When you write quickly without stopping to edit you are writing from truth. You are writing from the heart. Editing can come later. Style can come later. Don’t stop to look around or, like the lizard, you will become someone’s dinner.