You’d think holding your own novel would make you feel giddy, and proud, but it doesn’t. Instead, you are reminded of how short life is.

Her name is Virginia. She is interviewing me. She is fourteen, and wants to go into journalism one day.

Virginia wanted to interview a real writer. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get in touch with any, so she called me.

Her first question: What is being a writer all about?

Jeez. That’s a tough one. I have no idea how to answer it.

I was expecting something more along the lines of: “How long does it take you to learn how to spell ‘receive’ without making mistakes?”

The truth is, Virginia, my writing career all started in a sixteen-foot camper with a bloodhound asleep on my feet. The camper was junk, parked outside Pensacola. The dog was a purebred.

I was there for work. I had just quit construction, and I had finished community college—which had taken me eleven years.

So the world was my oyster. And naturally, I took the next logical step on the ladder of academia to further my professional career. I played music in beer joints.

I’m embarrassed to admit this. I know this isn’t what real writers do, but that’s what I did.

In the daytimes, to occupy my empty hours in the camper, I would read books. That’s when the idea hit me.

Early one morning, I was reading a book entitled—I’m not making this up—“44 Best Ever Fart Jokes and Poems.” The thought hit me like a shock of electricity.

I slammed the book shut and decided: “I’m going to become a writer! I am going to write a novel! A Western novel!

And I meant it, too. I ran the idea past my bloodhound. She wasn’t crazy about it.

“You don’t think I should write a Western?” I clarified.

She licked herself then fell asleep.

“How about a joke book?”

She sighed.

“A romance?”

She snored.

“Big help you are,” I said.

So I didn’t write a Western, nor a joke book, but I DID begin writing a novel. And in that camper my life changed.

You could say I sort of grew up during those years. Over time, I exchanged writing on a legal pad for a laptop, I started thinking in complete sentences, I began a column that turned into a few books, and I finally learned to spell recieev the rite weigh.

Last week, a publisher sent me a stack of papers in a manila envelope. The envelope weighed nearly fourteen hundred pounds.

I held the stack in my hands and I began to feel prickles in my chest. My novel. I finally finished it after all these years.

And I felt small, Virginia. So infinitesimally small. I don’t know why.

You’d think holding your own novel would make you feel giddy, and proud, but it doesn’t. Instead, you are reminded of how short life is.

I am so small. It’s scary how easily a person like me will be forgotten when they die. One day, my obituary will be in the newspaper; the next day, nobody will remember my name.

I have so many questions. What does my life mean? Am I just a spark from a campfire, glowing for a millisecond? When life disappears, who will remember me? What hair-color do they put on the the driver’s licenses of bald men? Why do hot dogs come in packs of twelve, but buns only come in packs of eight? Who really shot J.R.?

But, oh, Virginia, when you write.

You don’t have have to answer any questions. All you have to do is leave your footprint on this earth. A little piece of yourself. A retelling of your joys, and your pathetic failures, in paragraph form.

You can make saints out of the ordinary, and bring beauty to a dismal childhood. You can paint gold all over your saddest moments, and put them in pretty boxes.

And if a writer is lucky, Virginia, perhaps a century after he dies, a fourteen-year-old will find his words on a dusty shelf.

Maybe the kid will read them, and think, “Hey, I’m not alone in this world.”

That would make it all worth it. Because on that day, the things suffered, the minor triumphs, the colossal embarrassments, the ugly campers, the old dogs, the little things will all make sense. And meaningless moments will finally mean something.

I don’t know. Maybe that’s what being a writer is about.

I want to thank you Andy Jones, whoever you are, for writing that book about farts.

25 comments

  1. Gerald Hudson - February 1, 2019 12:14 pm

    i before e except after c

    Reply
    • Bellinda Davis - March 2, 2019 5:11 pm

      Except when sounding as “a” as in neighbor and weigh.

      Reply
  2. Lee - February 1, 2019 12:25 pm

    Thank you once again for your words that help me start my day. Your column makes such a wonderful difference in my life. Keep them coming. My the blessing you are to others return to you a hundredfold.

    Reply
  3. Peggy Savage - February 1, 2019 1:33 pm

    Don’t worry Sean. You are unforgettable. …and I mean it in a great way. …..

    Reply
  4. Jan - February 1, 2019 1:42 pm

    You are indeed unforgettable to anyone who has read your work but even more so to those who have been fortunate enough to meet you … those who encounter you in an everyday setting. The very best writers are the ones who meet real people, make them feel better about themselves and then share them with other real people and as the song says … the beat goes on.

    Reply
  5. Edy - February 1, 2019 2:16 pm

    Well said. We write to make sense of the world🙂

    Reply
  6. Laine Thayer - February 1, 2019 2:18 pm

    You are… a writer, a giver to people..of their story, kind… in noticing the ordinary and showing it to be real and special! Thank you!

    Reply
  7. Carol - February 1, 2019 2:23 pm

    You make me look for your writing every morning,so I think that makes you somebody in my book !
    I bet you laughter at all of my mistakes !
    But I don’t care , I just want you to know your my Shakespeare’ to me !! ( don’t you love google. ) I couldn’t spell his name. Did I impress you? Cause you sure impress me.
    Love ya!

    Reply
  8. Veanne Watkins - February 1, 2019 3:33 pm

    Since life is a mist of time, writers with your gift are a pure healing salve. Now, when I see a new post with your name attached, I take a deep breath, sit back, and know I’m about to be touched. I don’t know how you do that…I surely wish I did. Helping us strangers make it through our days…what a legacy. That guy with the auburn beard and the way with words…made our day. Oh, and yes, I shot jr…sorry, hadnt gotten to read your words of peace that day. God bless and wde!

    Reply
  9. Shelton A. - February 1, 2019 4:08 pm

    You make my day better. You give me something to think about. You make me laugh, you make me tear up, you make me believe in a stronger, more vibrant way. You inspire me. You’ll be remembered as a good man who helped others be better, too.

    Reply
  10. Paula - February 1, 2019 5:17 pm

    Thank you Sean. I only just found you when a friend shared your column on grief. I am now reading your blog every day….and most days it brings me to tears, but in a good way. Many of the thoughts and feelings you share are similar to ones in my head. Now I know I am not alone. I feel you must reach many in this same way, and that is your gift. BTW…did the fart book have a mention of “Blue Flame Brantley”? If so, I read it too. I still think fart books are funny.

    Reply
  11. jack Darnell - February 1, 2019 6:58 pm

    Okay dude, I am still waiting for the answer, What is being a writer all about?

    “Imma wait ’til hell freezes over!” As one politician told the Russian Ambassadore once in the UN! Is it really about bloodhounds not talking to you?

    LOL
    Good one, whe she interviews

    Reply
  12. Judy Broussard - February 1, 2019 8:20 pm

    Great story

    Reply
  13. throughmyeyesusa - February 1, 2019 8:47 pm

    Sean,
    Those of us who read what you write know that there’s some ordinary stuff in there (there is in every writer’s body of work). But there is much extraordinary as well. Just in this column alone there are the days you bring us laughter, heartbreak, and illumination about the human condition. You are wise in your ability to know the human condition. But, occasionally, Sean, you do say something incredibly dumb! For example,

    “It’s scary how easily a person like me will be forgotten when they die. One day, my obituary will be in the newspaper; the next day, nobody will remember my name.”

    WRONG!

    Reply
  14. Jones - February 2, 2019 12:45 am

    The ability to ‘make saints out of the ordinary’ is far from unforgettable!! Excellent choice of words. Thanks for sharing your writings with us each day!

    Reply
  15. Eleanor - February 2, 2019 2:36 pm

    Was this joke in the book of jokes you refer to? An older gentleman could no longer live on his own, so his family took him to an appropriate residential facility to see if it might be a possibility for him. They had to sit in the waiting room for a while. The older gentleman would lean to the left and one of the workers would come back and set him up straight. Then he would lean to the right and the same thing would happen. When his family asked him how he liked the place he said it seemed okay, but they wouldn’t let him fart.

    Reply
  16. Montgomery Martin - February 4, 2019 1:24 pm

    I’ve never had a taste for farts or fart jokes because my self-improvement skills begun at mother’s knee, continued by my wife makes me ask questions like “is that edifying” and use the word “edification” as much as my poor mind can access it. Thank you for entwangling the intangible symbiotic kinship of the “edification of fart jokes”. Amen bruther amen!

    Reply
  17. turtlekid - February 4, 2019 3:55 pm

    I still remember Lewis Grizzard…and you write the same way. God has blessed you guys with a gift linking words together in ways that evoke lots of feelings!!

    Reply
  18. Cay Weaver - February 6, 2019 5:51 pm

    Nothing thrills a writer more than knowing someone read his/her work and enjoyed it. Just wanted to let you know I read your blog and I enjoy it. And I promise I will remember your name!

    Reply
  19. John Allen Berry - February 9, 2019 6:40 pm

    Dear Sean,

    The beer joints were the right move. Like Henry David Thoreau once said: ‘How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.’

    Every job, every failure, every experience is OJT. You probably know this better than I do.

    I’m bettin’ you’ll be in the Southern Canon as long as there’s a South or people to read about it.

    Best,

    Allen (PhDude)

    Reply
  20. Cathy Moss - February 22, 2019 2:22 am

    Sean, I love you dearly, truly I do, but you lose me with that F—- word. I grew up with two brothers and I still love them dearly ,but that word won’t do. Drop it from your written word. Trust me, I am not alone in this aversion. You are way too sharp I am talking to you like I am your mother and I could be. The F—- word just wont do. Trust me. I love you enough to tell you. 💕💕💕

    Reply
  21. Gloria Rumph - March 2, 2019 7:44 am

    Loved this one

    Reply
  22. Millie - March 2, 2019 11:13 am

    Yes, thank God for Andy Jones, old campers and hounds, and for you Sean. Thru your writings I’m starting to remember my world and all the things that made this old girls life wonderful. Thank you.

    Reply
  23. Donna - March 3, 2019 1:06 am

    Shoot, child, don’t you know God’s time and ours have absolutely nothing to do with each other! I expect you are growing and maturing, learning and loving, teaching and sharing at exactly the right time. That little girl called the right person, Sean.

    Reply
  24. unkle Kenny - March 3, 2019 5:23 am

    The trick is in the arrangement of that string of words . Thanks.

    Reply

Leave a Reply