The seeds for me wanting to become an author were probably planted before I could even write. Although I was raised in a pretty working-to-middle class household, I was always surrounded by books. The walls in my father’s den were lined with bookshelves, filled with thousands of titles, many of them dating back to the eighteen and nineteenth century. This was not a common sight in the neighborhood where I grew up. In most houses, you'd be lucky to find a copy of the Reader’s Digest, let alone anything to read at all. But before I was even old enough to recite the alphabet, I knew that those books held some kind of power...and that one day I would learn their secrets.
In that same room was a heavy wooden desk and a typewriter where I would occasionally see my old man pound away on its keys. He mainly wrote articles for fly fishing magazines, and though I never inherited the same passion for angling that he had, I was always in awe of watching him become engrossed in the process of writing. Something in him changed when he was in front of that typewriter, and for short periods I would get a glimpse into the soul of my father as an artist, instead of just as a parent. He did not write for a living, but somehow, he seemed most alive when he was putting words onto paper.
It wasn't until later, that I learned that his father was a writer too… My grandfather had his own column in a local newspaper, where he wrote reviews about local bars and restaurants. And while it’s true that few people would consider what they were writing about to be serious contributions to the field of literature, they were both trying to capture something about the aspects of life in which they were most passionate.
In the case of my father, his passion was fishing. For my grandfather, it was essentially drinking booze and picking up women. Even though their subject matter(s) couldn’t be any more different, there was something about their work that was very similar. They didn’t seem to write as much specifically about their individual subjects as much as they wrote about how those subjects made them feel. And though I didn't really get a chance to read much of their writing until after they both had passed away, those columns captured little bits and pieces about who they were that I barely got to know when they were alive.
My father once said the greatest sound he had ever heard was the sound of a common loon crying out over a hidden lake, deep in the Adirondack mountains. My grandfather responded that the greatest sound he had ever heard was the sound of ice-cubes hitting his glass the moment before having his first scotch of the day. For both of them, these were their moments of Zen...and the passion they felt about these experiences, could not be denied in their writing.
I guess that’s why any of us ultimately feel the need to write. To convey something about all of the beauty and tragedy in the world, from a perspective that’s all our own…but something that we just can’t keep to ourselves. That, and of course the hope that through our creations we may become immortal, and leave behind a little bit of a legacy for the ones who come after.
And although it will be many years before my children become old enough to read any of my own work, I hope that when the day comes, they not only get a chance to learn something about me, but that they might feel inspired to embrace the passion within themselves.