Dear Sean

I’m just like you. I don’t have anything brilliant to write. So I write about simple things.

DEAR SEAN:

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.

Sincerely,
THIRTEEN-AND-WANT-TO-WRITE

DEAR THIRTEEN:

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.

39 comments

  1. Debbie Phillips Hughett - May 22, 2019 6:42 am

    So glad you kept writing.

    Reply
  2. Steve Winfield - May 22, 2019 7:22 am

    You’ve made lots of folks happy. I didn’t know how much I missed Grizzard until I found you. I’m also anxious about the new book. Love you. Steve

    Reply
  3. Nell Thomas - May 22, 2019 9:18 am

    Wonderful words of encouragement.
    I love to write. It is great therapy. On days I feel down in the dumps- sorry for myself because I can’t do all the things others are doing: going on nice vacations, taking this class and that class. I console myself by saying : ” On well, i can write. Don’t cost much to do that. I don’t go by any strick guidelines- just write what I think. It has pulled me out a rut many times. So has your writing- it makes sense. Keep it up.

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth - May 22, 2019 10:26 am

    Fabulous! I’m so glad you kept writing.

    Reply
  5. Elizabeth - May 22, 2019 10:27 am

    Can anyone get this man an interview?

    Reply
  6. Keloth Anne - May 22, 2019 11:36 am

    Wonderful
    Thank you for your wonderful words that inspire and encourage ♥️
    I am so thankful I am part of your “Southeast family”
    Ozark loves you and Jamie

    Reply
  7. Carol Heidbreder - May 22, 2019 11:37 am

    Powerful! Keep writing Sean! 😊 Wish I had kept my scribblings thru the years. Fler they weren’t worth the paper written on. But it has always been therapy and will continue to be for me too. Now, somehow someway I am hoping, PRAYING, you can get your interview with Hank Aaron!

    Reply
  8. Sarah Allen - May 22, 2019 11:48 am

    Never has your last sentence been truer..today your article is truly beautiful. I love them all..at 82 I cannot wait to read them daily. God bless.

    Reply
  9. Dianne - May 22, 2019 11:59 am

    That was wonderful encouragement for a young person, Sean. Sometimes just a word, a look, a nod, a pat on the back is all someone needs to do and become all they have ever dreamed of being. The word needs more encouragers like you and fewer disparagers.

    Reply
  10. Katharine Montgomery - May 22, 2019 12:01 pm

    I am so glad a friend of mine introduced you to me. I look forward to your writings every day. They bring back so many memories. Thank you

    Reply
  11. Linda D. - May 22, 2019 12:39 pm

    You may not realize it, Sean, but your words today were quite profound. Simple thoughts, but deep meanings. You’re so awesome.

    Reply
  12. Roxanne - May 22, 2019 12:40 pm

    Thank you. It’s the end of the school year, and very nearly 50 year old 8th grade school teachers who are facing down the last three days of school with the summer treat of a full hip replacement surgery on the calendar for June get to feeling a bit overwhelmed. This helped.

    Reply
  13. Joe Patterson - May 22, 2019 12:42 pm

    Thanks again

    Reply
  14. Liz Watkins - May 22, 2019 12:45 pm

    Dear Thirteen,
    Listen to Sean! And Sean keep writing💕

    Reply
  15. Fran Hopkins - May 22, 2019 12:48 pm

    Loved your answer ! Good job

    Reply
  16. Barbara-Jean Gravlee - May 22, 2019 12:59 pm

    Thank you for this! I had given up.

    Reply
  17. Bobbie - May 22, 2019 1:18 pm

    Ditto, what you said, to Thirteen! Just amazing when you think about it the stuff you can write about. I too write about the simple things, write a blog for a while, then got discouraged…I got no comments. Well, maybe one or two from my very biased daughter. It seems we need validation and approval, to know what we’re doing is worthwhile…but you know what? If it’s worthwhile and meaningful to the writer and mostly if you think it pleases God, and maybe touches someone who is sad or lonely, isn’t that enough?
    Thank you Sean, your writing is needed in this world we’re living in nowadays. And don’t give up…that interview with Hank Aaron May be just on the horizon 😀‼️

    Reply
  18. Shelton A. - May 22, 2019 2:08 pm

    Great story to show someone that they can write too. I just got Sean of the South Vols. 1 & 2. Can’t wait to read them.

    Reply
  19. MermaidGrammy - May 22, 2019 2:15 pm

    You are such an inspiration. To all who know you. And we all feel that we know you very well. Happy to see you mentioned in the June issue of Southern Living. Adopt your own children and inspire them, too. All my love and respect

    Reply
  20. Jack Darnell - May 22, 2019 2:27 pm

    I think if you THINK hard enough youcan find something tgo write about. LOL We always enjoy the subjects you choose and the visit.
    From North Carolina
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  21. Karen - May 22, 2019 3:26 pm

    Your words of encouragement wonderful. You are a dear and I love your writing. It is called SALT of the earth. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Thank you for being you Sean of the South. Wish there were more like you!!

    Reply
  22. Linda Moon - May 22, 2019 3:58 pm

    By God, and from God, you have been given this gift of writing. Your view of everyday life and the way you share it through your words with the rest of us is a gift. English Teachers have often seen it in students who are not unlike THIRTEEN-AND-WANT-TO-WRITE (I’ve seen that). And, if we’re lucky, sometimes we see it in our own families (I’m one of those lucky ones). I hope “13” keeps on writing!

    Reply
  23. Mary Anderson - May 22, 2019 3:58 pm

    Perfect response to someone of any age. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

    Reply
  24. Liz Watkins - May 22, 2019 4:30 pm

    Come to Grand Isle, La- small community on the Gulf of Mexico. I can introduce you to a lot of interesting people that you could write about for days.
    God Bless
    Liz

    Reply
  25. Edna B. - May 22, 2019 7:46 pm

    I, too, always wanted to write, so I have a blog. It’s nothing special. I write about mine and my little dog Pogo’s daily life. It’s nothing special, but we’re thankful for it. You have a great day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  26. Janet Mary Lee - May 22, 2019 7:48 pm

    Ii can live on those last 3 paragraphs for a while! Great stuff!! Just write, Thirteen and good luck!!!!

    Reply
  27. Lisa - May 22, 2019 9:19 pm

    I enjoyed reading this and remember a lot if the stories that you are referring too. I always felt like Crenshaw County white trash. I’m one generation away from moonshiner.

    Reply
  28. Ron Moore - May 23, 2019 1:22 am

    Ron – 22 May 2019

    Sean. You may feel your “community” is the southeast. I know it well – all of the southeast being born, raised, educated, and first job there. But my friend- you transcend the southeast. You have at least two very dedicated readers here in SoCal. That is Southern California so you don’t have to look it up. And there is one dedicated reader LA and one in San Diego. Long live the southeast. And long live Sean of the South.

    Reply
    • Melanie - May 26, 2019 12:29 am

      @Ron Hi from NCAL ! 🙂

      Reply
  29. Alice Roose - May 23, 2019 12:55 pm

    Love your writing Sean you are a beautiful human being I love your stories even when they make me cry!i am so blessed I got to meet you when you came to Dothan love you God Bless you and yours❤️

    Reply
  30. Deborah Moss - May 24, 2019 1:56 pm

    Thank you Sean, for making me feel and think and cry and laugh! I love your writing, and you.

    Reply
  31. Melanie - May 26, 2019 12:28 am

    Keep writing, Sean. ❤️

    Reply
  32. Soxyberry - May 30, 2019 4:41 am

    I’ve just found you and I can’t wait to read more, keep on writing!

    Reply
  33. Linda Chapman - June 22, 2019 6:22 am

    I think you are awesome! Keep inspiring and encouraging us. You are a gift.

    Reply
  34. Martha Martin Black - June 22, 2019 7:22 am

    And i most assuredly agree………
    Besides, As Barney Fife would interject, it’s therapeutic (that means it good for you & I will add goid for us too).

    Reply
  35. Melaney Douglass - June 22, 2019 12:51 pm

    Indeed, we all have to keep telling our story!

    Reply
  36. Beth Spratling - June 22, 2019 2:18 pm

    Dear THIRTEEN-AND-WANT-TO-WRITE: Keep writing. Never stop. Your stories need to be told. What’s this “better than I am?” They don’t know your stories do they? Just write.

    Reply
  37. Donna Schoditsch - June 22, 2019 3:16 pm

    Sean, your next to the last sentence may very well be your second best ever. The first would be, “I love Jamie
    .”

    Reply
  38. Patricia Berlin - June 22, 2019 3:49 pm

    Your writings inspired that thirteen year old from the depths of their soul and we know that’s where the greatest writings originate. Thanks, Sean

    Reply

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