I want to be a writer, but sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t even bother to write at all since everyone else is better than I am.
I think you should keep writing. Especially when you feel like you aren’t any good.
I have written my worst stuff on my best days and my best stuff on my worst days. And it’s been the greatest thrill of my life.
I’m just like you. I don’t have anything brilliant to write. So I write about simple things.
For instance, I have written a lot about my late dog, Ellie Mae. Once, she ate an entire jar of coffee grounds. I discovered that coffee stimulates the lower intestines of an animal.
Don’t ask me how I learned this.
I also wrote about the time I got stranded on an island for four hours. No kidding. My boat motor died, the current pushed me into the grass flats of the Choctawhatchee Bay. I had to wait until I got rescued by a man with beer.
I wrote about the time I dressed up like Elvis for a talent show. And about the time I did a ventriloquist act with the puppet of a squirrel. The puppet’s name was Ernie.
The next morning I wrote about it.
There was my college professor. When my first book got published, I gave her a stack of books and told her she was the reason. I wrote about that.
And about the woman who shares my life. My wife. Once, I sat in a waiting room at UAB, asking Heaven to make her better again. And when Heaven answered, I had to write about it.
Only ten minutes after I received news that my thirteen-year-old coffee-eating bloodhound had died, I wrote about it. My face was swollen, my eyes were wet. But sometimes you write so you can find your way through sadness.
I wrote about the time I failed fifth grade. I wrote about how I dropped out in middle school. I wrote about how I went to college as a grown man.
I wrote about my messed up family. I’ve written about the house trailer my mother lived in. And about the time I thought I saw the ghost of Elvis in the Piggly Wiggly.
Seriously. It looked just like him.
I have written a lot about small towns. Some with 217 residents. Others with 4,108. I wrote, for example, about Brewton, Alabama, (population: 5,236) the town that adopted a flunky and made him feel like somebody.
Sometimes, I write thank-yous to the people who once believed in me enough to tell me things like, “Keep writing, Sean!” Or, “You are a real writer, Sean.” Or, “Don’t give up.”
I’ve done interviews. I wrote about the time I met the mayor of Tuscaloosa. I wrote about when I interviewed the last surviving female cast member of the Andy Griffith Show, Betty Lynn.
I have never interviewed Hank Aaron, but I am still holding out hope. Hank Aaron is 85 years old.
This is me, begging.
I wrote about the man who saved a garbage bag full of puppies, floating in the Coosa River.
And about the young girl in Coweta County, Georgia, who saved her sister from drowning, and lost her life.
I wrote about the school principal in Blountstown who gave one of her kidneys to a coworker.
You see, my life has been touched by stories. Sometimes, I have spent mornings hunched over a typewriter, crying onto the white paper over people I have written about. Because I have met good people. And I have had the pleasure of using words to know them better.
I have corresponded with bishops, inmates, drop-outs, suicide survivors, professional clowns, fourth-graders, dog lovers, chiropractors, sushi chefs, immigrant workers, mandolinists, veterans, and and I have written letters to dead people.
I am nobody. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t dislike myself, that’s not what I mean. But I am nobody special. I don’t brush my teeth regularly, I skip haircuts, and my truck hasn’t been washed—this is true—in sixteen years.
For most of my life, I believed I was Panhandle white-trash. I’m sorry if that offends anyone, but it’s hard to change what you believe.
But I don’t feel that way anymore. Today, I realize that I am a part of a family; which is part of a community; which is part of a city; which is part of a state; which is part of the Great American Southeast; which is part of the country; which is part of the entire world; the universe; and the very expanse of time and space itself.
And I matter, just as much as any sparrow who ever fell to the ground. And so, by God, do you.
That’s why I think you should keep writing.