They say a writer should never write to please the reader. Once this happens, they say the writer is writing for the wrong reasons.
When I began this journey, I began with the desire to create and become something. I wanted to perfect my craft and do something more than scribble notes in a notebook. Years ago, I was taught about the definition of two words. The first word is humility and the second word is modesty.
Humility is honesty and modesty is simply the absence of pride. If I am going to be a writer (a real writer that is) then I want to be this kind; humble and modest.
I never wanted to be the next Shakespeare of Hemingway. I was never trying to be the next Bukowski or Burroughs, Carrol or O’Hara. I want to be the first me. I want to create my own style. I want to create my own voice and write with the ability to describe the world as it relates to me.
If I am going to write about myself, then everything I write about myself must be true. In the case of honesty, I have to be fearless. And being fearless, I cannot be concerned with the reader’s opinion or be intimidated by the critic.
To be the writer I want to be, I have to be unafraid. I have to let my words fall as they come. And as I work to sculpt this creation of mine and as I move along my journey to reach a sense of achievement, I know that I will stumble. I know I will fall as I learn, but I will also learn to stand up again and continue. I know there will be critics. There will be those who say, “You’re no good,” and attempt to pick me apart.
To be the writer I want to be, I cannot write to impress or look for the compliments. And truthfully, I struggle with compliments. They make me uncomfortable and question myself.
If I write for compliments, then I am writing for the wrong reasons. If I write for the compliments, I will change the sound of my voice and decorate what is better left undressed.
To be the writer I want to be, I cannot look left or right. I cannot be distracted by compliments or criticisms from either side. I have to look straight ahead. Otherwise, I will change my voice to please someone else. My writing will become flat and the edge I use to cut the imagination will be dulled and pointless.
I cannot concern myself with the reader.
But without the reader, a writer is like an exhale without the inhale.
Years back, I kept a blog running on a tattoo website. I posted a short piece about being a younger brother. I wrote about the bruises on my arms and legs from punches my older brother would call “Froggies,” which are otherwise known as dead-arms and dead-legs.
My brother would pick me up and lift me by my ears. He would lift me by my neck. He would throw me in the pool in our backyard. He would allow his friends to throw me in as well. They would lift me and toss me as high as they could in the air, and usually, I landed in the water.
I wrote about the time my brother tied a rope around the rear bumper of his first car. Then he tied the other end around my waist, and with close to 10 yards of rope between me and my brother’s car, he jumped in the driver’s seat of his beat-up, old brown Plymouth with a loud rumbling engine and black exhaust rushing from the tailpipe.
He checked to see if I was ready. I was reluctant at first, but after I gave the thumbs-up, my brother stepped on the gas and dragged me around the ice-covered parking lot at Eisenhower Park.
The ride began well. I was in a crouched position—ass hovering slightly above the ground, hands covered with gloves and gripped around the beaten 3/4″ rope. I wore an enormously fluffy down coat, a wool hat knitted by my grandmother pulled over my ears, thermal underwear, two pairs of socks and snow boots. As I held on with all I could, My brother drove around the lot. I held on for as long as I could too, but when I lost my grip, I fell to my side. I tried to grab the rope and get back to a seated position, but this did not happen. When my brother looked in his rear-view mirror, he assumed I was having fun. He saw snow flying and figured all was well. Instead of stopping, he continued driving around the large, oval shaped parking lot.
Unfortunately, my brother’s knot typing abilities were limited to a basic slip knot, which constricted around my mid-section, and made it difficult to breathe.
Dragged without breath around the Merrick Avenue side parking lot of the entrance at Eisenhower Park, hitting speed-bumps, and then launching into the air with my arms and legs flailing, only to crash down into the Iced and snowy concrete, I came to a moment of clarity while looking at the heavens through the ice and snow that covered my eyes. I thought to myself, “Holy Shit! My brother is trying to kill me!”
And though this story may not be an accurate reflection of brotherly love, there is something relatable and redeeming to it. As dangerous as it was, I survived, and stories such as this one are stories my brother and I laugh about now.
After posting this piece on my blog, I received a message from a woman in Iceland. She mentioned the piece I wrote about my brother and told me what it meant to her. She told me about her own brother and all the trouble they caused together. She told me about the brother and sister fights they had, which were not too different from the fights I had with my own brother.
Then the woman thanked me for bringing back the memories of her childhood. She informed me of her brother’s suicide and how she missed him terribly, but somehow, she found comfort in something I wrote.
As a writer, this is one of my most valued achievements.
And with that being mentioned, I am writing this specifically to you.
I know your April’s showers did not bring the flowers you had hoped for.
I know the loss and I understand the emptiness. I understand the unexplained energy that lingers after a loved one passes away. And by energy, I mean the energy that remains when you look at his empty chair, or when you see his clothes that still hang in the closet. By energy, I mean the shoes that remain in the exact place he left them before moving on to the next place of existence.
I am writing this to you because if he could, I believe your husband would say this:
I did not leave you.
I am not far from you at all.
To find me,
you needn’t look farther than your thoughts
or your dreams.
I am no farther away from you now
than the memories in your heart.
Speak, and I will listen.
And if you look,
you will see that I answer every word.
I am no farther away from you now than before.
I speak to you often —
when you smell something that reminds you of me
or when you see something
that reminds you of places we’ve been to,
this is my way of saying, “I remember this too.”
I have not left you and I never will
look around and you will see me,
I have left remnants of me everywhere
with hopes to let you know
you are not alone
and you never will be . . .
I’ll tell you what; I may never reach the top of the best seller’s list, but I did reach you.
And as a writer, this is one of my biggest achievements