I get a lot of mail in the form of letters, texts, emails, and subpoenas. Many of these messages are questions, which I am not always able to answer. So I’ve answered some here by compiling the most commonly asked questions. Let’s get started.
Q: Do you receive hate mail?
A: This is the Age of the Internet. Everyone gets critical mail. I get it all the time.
Q: Really? What do these people say?
A: I don’t want to talk about it.
Q: Did someone once Tweet about how you were a stupid hick with a head that was “unnaturally big for his body”?
Q: How did that make you feel?
A: I measured my head in the bathroom mirror.
Q: So I thought you lived in Alabama, and then I read that you lived in Florida. Which state is it?
A: I live in the Florida Panhandle, which is a unique region we natives lovingly refer to as L.A. “Lower Alabama.” My house is a few minutes from an Alabama town called Florala, if that tells you anything.
Simply put, every truck in my neighborhood has either an Auburn-University bumper sticker or a University-of-Alabama tag. Also, I actually own a pair of camouflage underpants.
A: They were a birthday gift.
Q: So which team do you root for, Alabama or Auburn?
A: I may or may not have a tattoo of Nick Saban beneath my camo skivvies.
Q: You have frequently written that you don’t like calling yourself a writer. Why?
A: Being a writer in America is one of those occupational categories nobody understands.
You know how when you’re a kid and your teacher asks what you want to be when you grow up? If you were gutsy enough to tell this teacher you wanted to be a writer, chances are she stared at you as though you had said, “I want to be an astronaut.”
Let’s say you’re at a dinner party, for example, and someone says, “I work at H&R Block.” Everyone will nod at that person and smile. But if you tell these people, “Hey, I’m an author,” they will hand you their dirty plates and ask for refills.
Q: How old are you?
A: Aren’t you going to buy me dinner first?
Q: I am a man/woman/vegetable/mineral who wants to become a writer. What can I do?
A: Cancel your internet plan.
Q: Huh? Why?
A: The internet is a major distraction to writers. You will constantly be tempted to Google things while you’re writing. You will be so distracted that you’ll be lucky to finish typing one simple paragra
Q: Did someone once copy and paste one of your columns onto their Facebook wall without giving you any credit, and it went crazy viral, and yet this person who plagiarized your work accepted full credit for it?
Q: How did that feel?
A: Here’s the thing. The columns I write are supposed to be—hopefully—uplifting. This is my only goal. I don’t write because I’m looking for my fifteen minutes.
If someone reads my feeble words and finds value, peace, comfort, humor, or a shred of hope, mission accomplished. I don’t need my name attached. It’s not about me.
Case in point: Do you give credit to the author of “You Are My Sunshine” before you sing it to your toddler? Do you pay royalties to George Gershwin every time you sing “Happy Birthday?” Fame is highly overrated.
Q: You write a lot about death, why is that?
A: Once you go through it, you won’t ask that question anymore.
Q: Who is your favorite author?
A: Gary Larson.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “The Ghost and Mister Chicken.”
Q: Wait. You mean the 1966 film starring Don Knotts and Joan Staley? The movie that Don’s best friend, Andy Griffith, helped write the screenplay for but was uncredited because Andy didn’t care about attention, he only wanted to write a really good movie script for his best pal?
A: That’s the movie.
Q: I struggle with anxiety/depression. Sometimes I’m not sure I’ll make it through it. Do you have any advice for me?
A: Distract yourself. I have a friend named Lynn who has endured a veritable hell on earth. I would tell you Lynn’s story, but it’s not mine to tell. Lynn is, quite literally, the most exceptional person I have ever met. I once asked him how he gets through his darkest days. He said, “I distract myself.”
I don’t mean to make it sound so easy. It’s not. I’ve wrestled with anxiety and depression my entire life, and probably always will. But the one thing I’ve learned is that trying to “think your way out” of being anxious or depressed is the worst thing you can do. Force yourself to laugh. Even if you have to hire someone to tickle your armpits.
Q: I have cancer/auto-immune disorder/a bad disease, or someone I know is dying/ill/suffering. Pray for me.
A: Every single prayer request that comes into my inbox—and I mean every SINGLE request—I write onto a list. I read through this list every night and I actually pray for the people upon it. This takes a long time.
My prayers aren’t much, but I believe prayer works. It doesn’t always work the way I think it will, but it works nonetheless.
Q: How in the [bleep] do you know prayer works? I don’t believe in prayer.
A: Someday, when it’s your turn to suffer—and your turn will come—you will find out that prayer is all you have. And in fact, prayer is all you’ve ever had, you just didn’t know it. This will change you as a human being.
Q: Are you a religious person?
A: Not hardly.
Q: Then what would you say you believe, spiritually?
A: Charles Schulz, Fred Rogers, and Jerry Clower.
Q: What’s one thing about yourself that few people know?
A: My head circumference is 58 centimeters, which according to recent studies, is the most common size for a human male head.