When I proudly handed it to my mom, she smiled at my effort and said, "This looks great, but I can't read it. Why didn't you use words?"
Well, words were hard for me then. I'd had difficulties learning what the black scribbles said Dick, Jane and Spot were doing (Spot was always my favorite). I was a little embarrassed, but my mom assured me that I could do it and that she would be excited to read it when I was done. So I went back out to the living room with a pen and a fresh sheet of paper.
Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot to say. I wrote out a few articles, but soon realized that newspapers talk about a LOT of different things. After I exhausted my pool of stories, I ran out to play. Leaving my Evening Edition cooling on the presses. But writing continued haunting me. Stories were amazing things and tales like Call of the Wild and The White Indian Boy made me appreciate the true art of the storyteller.
When I reached fifth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Funk, announced that we were going to have a Halloween writing contest. The winner won a graham cracker haunted house. Seeing the frosting alone was enough to give me a sugar rush. I worked hard on my story. Making it as scary as a child could. As far as I remember, this was also the only time I ever voluntarily stayed after school to work on homework. Just me and Mrs. Funk, quietly scribbling at our desks.
One week later, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, she nervously announced the winner. As she called the winner's name I looked to see who was walking up to claim their prize, but everyone was looking at me. I still remember the shock and joy that my story had won, the giddy embarrassment as I walked to the front of the class to read my story for everyone, and the quiet pride as I carried home my victor's purse.
For the next several years, I was continually blessed with teachers who sparked my love of reading and writing. They recognized the passion and kindly encouraged me, even though I rarely shared my stories with anyone because, as most authors, I felt what I wrote wasn't any good.
Then life happened and I stuffed my desire to write under the bed. Beating it mercilessly if it ever popped its cheerful eyes out. I was a husband and father now. Writing didn't make any money, so I took it as a frivolous hobby that would have to wait for a much later time, if ever. Years later, when life pounded me to the ground and I felt like I had nothing left, the poem 'Laura and the Empty Tray' by Carol Lynn Pearson had new meaning.
"What can you serve from an empty tray?
Writing, for so long, had been my wellspring. In my quiet places, writing allowed me to give my thoughts voice. By giving it up and sacrificing all my needs for the needs of others, I allowed myself to run dry and become as useless as an empty pot.
How can you water plants from an empty pot?"
So... I'm a writer. Not because I want to make money (although that would be nice). But because writing makes me happy. And isn't that what life is all about?