Dear Sean

Not only do I feel like a non-writer, Merle, but I am a late bloomer.

“Sean, every time I sit down to write, I can’t make the words come…

“Maybe it’s because I’m not any good. I got a C in my journalism class, and I feel like I’ll never be a true writer, but a big failure. What should I do?”

This question was posed to me by a twenty-one-year-old journalism major who I will call Merle.

I call him this for two reasons. Firstly, Merle Haggard is one of my favorite country singers. Secondly, this person’s name is actually Merle.

The thing is, Merle, you have more credentials than I do. I’m not what you’d call a “true writer,” either.

A true writer finds incredible stories, then polishes them into poetry. I don’t do that.

Case in point: Once, I wrote an entire column about eyebrow hair.

This proves that I am not an “author” in the traditional sense. Actually, what I am is a “talker.” Which means I can talk at great length about topics I know absolutely nothing about. Kind of like I’m doing now.

I inherited this natural gabbiness from my mother. My mother could chat with anyone or anything.

Once, when I was a boy my mother lost her prescription eyeglasses in a JCPenney and mistakenly struck up conversation with a cardboard cutout of Brooke Shields advertising tight-fitting jeans.

After Mama’s conversation, she remarked, “That was a nice young lady, maybe you’ll meet a young lady like that one day.”

“I doubt it,” I said. “That was Brooke Shields.”

“Brooke who?”

“Shields.”

“Well, Brooke’s mother should’ve never let her leave the house in those tight britches.”

Not only do I feel like a non-writer, Merle, but I am a late bloomer.

Just last night, I was watching a baseball game. The announcer was Jeff Francoeur, a former big league right-fielder who is one of the greats.

The game was rolling, and I was listening to Jeff comment on the finer points of pitching.

I made a passing remark to my wife. “I wonder how old Jeff is.”

Within seconds, my wife pulled up Wikipedia on her phone. My wife announced that Jeff Francoeur was born in 1984. This makes him thirty-five years old.

Thirty. Five.

I set down my beer and started to feel bad about my lack of accomplishments.

Not only has Jeff Francoeur played for eight major league teams; not only has he won a Golden Glove award; not only did he once hit a walk-off grand slam against the Nationals; not only did he help win the first ever World Baseball Classic; not only did he have his own fan club named “Francoeur’s Franks;” Jeff Francoeur doesn’t even have an AARP card yet.

Me? I graduated from community college when I was thirty, maintaining a steady GPA of 1.9.

And, the only award I ever won was a safe forklift-driving award. The “Silver Fork,” it was called. The trophy was an actual stainless steel dinner fork given to me by my boss, Lamar, who had just used it to eat spaghetti.

Merel, you and I are on the same playing field. In fact, I’m probably just like you.

When I started writing this blog, I began writing about simple things because I didn’t think I had the skill to write about anything else.

I wrote about things like dogs, fishing, eyebrows, my family, waiters, single mothers, dogs, greasy food, truck drivers, sleepy cafes, dogs, my late father, my wife, and dogs. But most of all, I started writing about people like you. Good people.

People like the man who carried heavy bags of potting soil to the car for an old woman at Home Depot. He had a prosthetic leg.

Or the Birmingham woman who was being followed by a scary-looking guy dressed in rags. She waited at the crosswalk. The man stood behind her.

The crosswalk light turned. She was about to step across the street when the man grabbed her and pulled her back from the curb.

A transfer truck sped past and missed her by inches. This man saved her life.

Or the little girl who saved a turtle from traffic.

Or the old man who paid for a single mother’s to-go order at Zaxby’s.

Or the preacher who performed a funeral service for a ten-year-old’s Labrador.

And here’s another one:

A twenty-one-year-old young man. A kid who decided he liked writing, so he majored in journalism. He feels like a failure, but we all know what is really inside him.

He has heart. And grit. And they can’t teach things like that in classrooms.

Certainly, he might never win Pulitzer prizes, literary awards, accolades from Harvard, or the prestigious Silver Fork. But none of that matters. Because he is a human being. He is special. And when this world bloodies him, he will stand up and try again. And again.

And again.

Until one day, he will wake up and discover that he was never a failure. He is a true writer. And he always has been.

If you don’t believe me, just go ask Brooke Shields.

15 comments

  1. Nell Thomas - April 26, 2019 9:59 am

    Even at almost 73 I still have hope that someday, some way I will see at least one of my four manuscripts in print. A book I can hold in my hand. The writing, designing the covers and illustrations in my own whimsical way have been the easy part. Publishing- well that’s been a different story- mostly due to my lack of knowledge and expertise in the technical world- also the cost the project could add up to.
    No- you don’t have to be a genius to make a statement- say what you want to say- the way you want to say it. Reading your stories have been a real inspiration to this older lady that still dreams of getting a book in print.

    Reply
  2. Karen - April 26, 2019 10:14 am

    Your mama is a pistol. I would love to have known her. You lift us up every day. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth - April 26, 2019 10:24 am

    Thank you for reminding me, us, we are all special, no matter what the world tells us, or how bad we beat ourselves up.

    Reply
  4. Rhonda - April 26, 2019 12:08 pm

    This is another silver fork winner right here!

    Reply
  5. Connie Havard Ryland - April 26, 2019 12:44 pm

    I just love you. I love your outlook on the world and the way you bring us all along with you. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Shelton A. - April 26, 2019 2:10 pm

    You are a true writer, Sean. Way to go supporting a fellow writer who’s down in the dumps. Everyone is a special person and has their own unique gifts to enrich the world around them. Yours is telling stories about eyebrows and dogs, your family, kind strangers, and, of course, dogs.

    Reply
  7. Ashley - April 26, 2019 2:31 pm

    Beautifully said!!! You may be the modern Mr. Rogers in the 21st century with how positive you are to adults and kids.

    Reply
  8. Karen Still - April 26, 2019 2:31 pm

    I can completely relate to your style of writing. Your stories are refreshing … helps lower my stress level a bit, too. Puts a smile on my face! Thank you for sharing your “conversations” in print.

    Reply
  9. Carol Folsom - April 26, 2019 3:14 pm

    Thank you for this. Love your sense of humor!

    Reply
  10. Edna B. - April 26, 2019 3:41 pm

    I always wanted to be a writer too, but it wasn’t to be. Instead I keep a blog and through it I’ve made some awesome friends. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  11. Barbara Pope - April 26, 2019 6:28 pm

    I’m a talker. You’re a writer in the ilk of Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Garrison Keillor and James Thurber. You show the most valuable life events are in simple every day occurrences–it’s a gift!

    Reply
  12. Carol - April 26, 2019 8:23 pm

    I’d rather sit with a talker, like me and you , than an “Author “! I think , even though they write good stories , can they really Tell as in Talk about good stories??
    You Talk about good stories as you write them to us.
    That’s the idea of a perfect author to me!!
    So Thank You!!
    Love ya!

    Reply
  13. Linda Moon - April 26, 2019 8:27 pm

    I will dedicate this story to the late-bloomer-writer in my family who has a lot in common with you. Accolades from real people like me are good enough for you guys.
    If that Silver Fork or another hoity-toity award ever presents itself to you three writers
    ( Merle, you, and my kin) remember us “little people” who had the grit to believe in you from the beginning!

    Reply
  14. Jack Darnell - April 26, 2019 10:01 pm

    I was just thinking the other day, maybe one day I will actually write.

    Reply
  15. Charaleen Wright - April 27, 2019 4:39 am

    Reply

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