When I was a 14-year-old kid with acne, braces, glasses and buck teeth, I discovered something that would change my life – a 90-mile-an-hour fastball.
That’s what it was like for me to realize I had something at my disposal that could, if used properly, separate me from all the other 14-year-olds with acne, braces, glasses and buck teeth. That something was writing.
From before I can remember I’ve always loved words. I love the way they look. I love the way they sound. I love spelling them correctly, and using them in sentences.
I remember Mark Twain said the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. I loved that.
So it was during English classes that I began to excel. You know, the ones where they tell you write something, like a story, or a poem. And while my fellow 14-year-olds with acne, braces, glasses and buck teeth were squirming in their tiny school desks and wondering what to do, I would rip off a 12-paragraph soliloquy on why we shouldn’t have to eat fish sticks (I hate fish sticks) every Friday in the cafeteria because there were only six Catholics in our town and they were all in the same family and could easily bring a bag lunch on those days. You know, human interest stuff, if you’re in the eighth grade.
Later, I found I could also draw a little (see cartoon above), but that would fade as the writing took over.
Subsequently, I got praise for my effort. Mrs. Anne Stewart, our English teacher, noticed and encouraged me to write more and more. Which was all the permission I needed to launch what became my life’s work – playing with words.
Of even greater significance was the fact that I suddenly had a sociological closer in my previously empty bull pen. In the baseball game of life, writing was my 90-mile-an-hour fastball. It figured out it was the one thing I could do better than anybody else in the eighth grade, or the twelth grade, as far as I knew.
And, amazingly, it’s always been there for me. Every time I reach for it, it’s there. It’s like having a 3-2 count on a batter and knowing, without a doubt, you’re going to strike him out with the next pitch, a 90-mile-an-hour fastball he’ll never see.
It also helped me with girls. They like boys who can write. Turns out you can woo the world with the right words, once you get rid of the acne, braces, glasses and buck teeth.