Yes. I am a lying liar who lies.
Twitter is a great place to stumble upon great little gems of wisdom. I found an old blog post from terribleminds the other day. Talk about ‘voice,’ Chuck Wendig has one. In this post, he gives ten reasons why one should get far, far away from writers. It is hilarious and scarily true. Just go here and read it for yourself, then consider yourself warned about me.
I knew I was a bit nuts; but I’ve always done a good job of keeping my crazy under wraps. I’m a high-functioning loon. Anyway, as I read this blog post, I had one of those epiphanic moments. That is a word, right? Whatever…I had an epiphany--I really am a writer.
When I read his reasons #2 and #3, I flashed back, right back to first grade when I wove an amazing tale for my parents’ benefit at the supper table. Wendig said, “We are lying liars who lie. We have to be. Fiction is a lie…but at least I’m not lying about, you know, real shit. That’s what I tell myself.” Reason #3 was further enlightenment for me. He said, “We make shit up all day long, and then we must write about that made-up shit with utter authority. It is our job to write with abject confidence in the subject matter. You know in high school you’d write papers that were, as you might say, ‘bullshit?’ And you could convince the teacher of it? Yeah. This is like that.”
Yeah. I’ve been creating scenes in my head forever. I simply thought I had a vivid imagination. It's always been easy to entertain myself for hours on end. It took me a couple of decades to realize I could put all these scenes I imagined down on paper.
The scene I constructed one night over dinner in 1961 landed me in the principal’s office the next morning for lying. I had a bad habit of saying, “I know,” in response to most anything my mother told me – a phrase learned from her if I recall correctly. I didn’t mean it in a ‘know-it-all’ way, more an acknowledgement like, “I understand.” Regardless, when she told us at dinner that night about the firehouse burning down in our small town, I responded with my usual, “I know.” I think it was the vision of firefighters running around in panic unable to save their own building from burning down that triggered my little flight of fancy. I could see it all as it unfolded. That movie in my head was simply too good to resist; the lines between truth and fiction instantly disappeared.
My mother asked me how I knew. So, I told her.
You see, my beloved first grade teacher, Miss Daisy, took her class on a field trip that day. We walked all the way downtown where we stood next to the railroad tracks in the cold and watched the firehouse burn down. We then trekked off to the dairy dip where she bought us all ice cream cones before we went back to our classroom at Oakmont Elementary. We had a fine time, and I remember clearly how good that ice cream tasted despite the frigid winter temperatures.
I had no clue all hell was about to break loose. My mother set the phone lines afire, chewing out the principal, who in turn castigated dear sweet Miss Daisy for undertaking such a foolhardy and dangerous expedition with close to thirty first graders in the dead of winter. The next morning found me standing before Miss Dunn, our stern-faced principal who possessed the ‘electric paddle.’ I envisioned this contraption as some sort of operating table with a huge paddle suspended overhead, ready to pound the poor kid quaking in fear beneath it. I duly apologized to Miss Dunn and Miss Daisy for my horrid lying, confident the electric paddle awaited me in some dark room. I still didn’t quite get why my brilliant tale was considered lying. Afterall, I wasn’t lying about ‘real shit.’
It was a life-altering experience. That day I learned I had a gift for making people believe made-up stuff. It just took me a while to equate that with ‘fiction writer.’ I’ve been a lot smarter about my crazy tales since then.