by: Pat Jobe
The critical blessing to my writing life came at 10 years old. In fourth grade we had a special teacher for writing. Her name was Mrs. Burwell. She stood in front of the whole class and pointed a bony finger and said, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but Pat Jobe’s gonna be a writer.” My parents got me a typewriter for Christmas that year and I started my first novel in the sixth grade.
Thomas Merton once admitted being afraid of writing, that sometimes he would force himself to work in the garden or go for walks, anything, to keep himself from writing. He considered it an addiction.
John Gardner once quoted Wilt Chamberlain as saying he would play basketball even if it were illegal. Gardner added, “Novelists are worse than that.”
Alistair Cooke died the week his last newspaper column ran.
Kurt Vonnegut said he wrote because, “I can do nothing about the chaos in the world around me, but I can reduce to perfect order this eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper.”
By the next click on the calendar, I will have been writing for 50 years. I published my own newspaper in high school, wrote for the local paper, and continued the trek in college. I’ve written two published novels, although I had to publish the second myself and it still needs typos corrected at the cost of another 200 bucks. I’m writing at this moment in the middle of the afternoon after eating ice cream and fighting the opportunity to take a nap. Any 60-year-old man who would rather write than take a nap is addicted to writing.
Books, one or two unperformed plays, hundreds of newspaper columns and sermons, and this morning I put a letter to a dear auntie in the mail with a stamp on it. Yes! People still do that.
I write primarily on a keyboard looking at a computer screen. God bless spell-check. My used iMac even knew when I spelled Alistair Cooke’s name wrong. But I also keep a minimum of two pens in one pocket and now have two notebooks, small of course, in the other. I scratch haikus on napkins and paper place mats. I copy down quotes obsessively. I love a good quote.
Emerson said, “I hate quotes. Tell me what you know.” I even love that one. I have a love-hate relationship with other writers. Some are so cussed good that I could just kill them. Tom Robbins is an obvious example. Here’s a taste of his chops, “The unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwelling on himself and start paying attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence. When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. You get to take yourself oh so very seriously.”
Shirley Rawley taught writing at High Point College. I adored every step she placed upon the earth. She encouraged me with raw, melted love poured over like a chocolate sundae. But Elizabeth Harris was also a charm. My junior year in high school she stopped by my desk and groused, “You’re probably gonna make some money off your writing. You might wanna learn to spell.”
I nevah did.