Bayou-Picayune Podcast, S01 EP01: My Dark Wicked Secret
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People are always asking me when I first decided to be a writer.
That’s really not the question to ask. It wasn’t a choice, at least for me. It’s always been who I am.
My earliest memories are from when I would play, either alone or with others — usually alone. While pretending to be a soldier trapped behind enemy lines or a bank robber trying to elude the cops — I would, in a whisper, narrate to myself what I was doing. In other words, I was telling my story as I played.
No, the question to ask me is why I looked upon writing as a dark, secret passion.
Maybe it was because I was afraid someone would read what I had written and say, “This is bad. I can do better than this.”
I do lack self-confidence. That, I believe, is an essential quality for any good writer. You must never fall in love with your words. You must always keep asking yourself if you could have written it better.
Anyway, anyway, I remember when I first came to look upon writing as my dark secret. I was nine, the oldest of four children, and my father, a public accountant, worked out of our home. That room, his office, was forbidden territory for us kids. We were NOT to set foot inside.
But on one particular, glorious occasion, my father had gone to visit a client, and my mother had taken my two sisters and brother with her to the store, leaving me at home — ALONE!
I discovered my dad’s office was unlocked, and I sneaked in, and there was the Sacred Machine — my father’s Underwood typewriter. It was for his business. It was his business typewriter.
But I had other designs on that thing. I could write stories on it, I thought — as long as I didn’t get caught.
So, I rolled a sheet of typing paper into the Sacred Machine and pecked out the first three letters of my story, T – H – E. Then I rolled it up and admired my handiwork. I was right! With this device I could type out words that looked just like the words I saw printed in books. In books!
So, I proceeded to hunt and peck.
I had a story to tell, a great story, I thought — about a boy my age, little Tommy Shoup, who snuck into the house of the stranger who lived next door. Tommy knew the stranger was a bank robber and probably a killer, too, and that the loot was hidden somewhere in the house!
Sadly, the story was bigger in my head than what I could type on the typewriter, for I had barely pecked out the letters of a sentence before I heard my sisters and brother and Mom come home.
Quickly, I rolled the paper out of the typewriter, folded it up, stuffed it in my pocket and fled the scene.
No one ever found out what I had done, but every night for days after that, when I was alone, I would write more of my story in pencil on the paper with my typed-out words.
And on those rare occasions when all the planets would be in alignment and I would be alone again in the house with Dad’s Underwood, I would hunt-and-peck another sentence or two on another sheet of paper.
This, I suppose, was the reason I have always looked upon writing as my dirty little secret. No one was ever supposed to know what I was doing because I was doing something bad.
And every year, when school would start, my mother would buy me a spiral notebook for each of my school subjects. English, History. Math. Science.
And in each of those composition books, I would squeeze the notes for that particular class into the first five pages of the spiral notebook — so that I could use the rest of the blank pages to write my stories.
I would memorize dates in history and notes for English so I didn’t have to waste pages in my notebooks on school stuff, and this secret of mine I would keep hidden from my teachers and my mom.
This became a habit with me and, even through college, I kept hidden from everyone that I was writing stories in the back of all my notebooks.
And that leads to my first tip for writers: Writing is best if you feel you’re doing something sneaky and wicked.