I am a writer.
Because when I’m truly writing, I’m not.
All of the stories already exist, waiting to be dug up, dusted off, and assembled. The first thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was an archeologist. That inclination was either clairvoyant or delusional—to quote the prog rock supergroup Asia, “Only time will tell.”
My first most ambitious tales flashed across the mirrors of my mind—never to be properly chronicled. They were revisions of the real life dramas that bullied a shy, tender, and precocious young introvert. They were mental machinations of visceral experience endlessly over-dubbed to a soundtrack of Juice Newton, Beach Boys, and Dr. Hook records spinning on my old man’s Pioneer PL-400 turntable.
In some of these epics, I was an adventurer happening upon immense treasure in the woods just behind my house. In others, I was sinking three-pointers at the buzzer to ice the championship game. Later, the sagas took a noticeable turn and featured a stable of heroines cast opposite my heroic guise. All of this unfolding in my mind—practice for a future storyteller.
It wouldn’t be until my sophomore year in high school when someone not related to me would recognize my gift for graphorrhea. Neil Chamberlain—Mr. Chamberlain to his students—singled out my parents during fall conferences to laud the literary stylings of their son. Unbeknownst to me, “I had a gift,” or at least that what was the claim.
I would nurture this gift throughout the remainder of my high school daze. I pursued electives in creative writing, journalism, and literature. Inexplicably, when it came time to declare a college major, I chose practically, I chose Information Technology. My lust for writing was supplanted by a penchant for COBOL, 7&7’s, and inadvisable romantic escapades (not necessarily in that order, depending on the day of the week).
I wouldn’t write anything significant after the last love letter to my long-distance girlfriend in Montana. That was my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. When the miles (and states) between us splintered our bond, I put away my words.
It would be seventeen years before I reignited my love affair with prose. Ironically, my relationship with writing was revived amid the death of my marriage. I sought to rekindle my romance with that far-away girl in Montana. This time around, she was in Georgia. It seems that we were destined to be forever geographically challenged.
I’ve began writing part-time while still geeking full-time—that IT degree was a practical choice. Sitting in front of a keyboard, mouse, and two monitors in my cubicle, I long for the romantic lifestyle of my writing heroes like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Foster Wallace (sans their premature and gloomy deaths), as well as the ones still churning out prose: Chabon, Pollan, and Brand (Russell). When asked, “What author do you most resemble?” my answer is another of my literary heroes: the incomparable John Irving.
Today, I write for fun—tomorrow, I expect to pay the light bill with my words.
—Blake Charles Donley