The first thing I ever wrote

All my life, I’ve loved to write. I once read that Benjamin Franklin, for all of the things he did in his lifetime, described himself as being a printer in his will. And I’m nowhere near Franklin’s standing, in anything, but I know how he felt. Whatever I’m doing, and whatever my job title might be, there has always been lots of writing involved.

And I still remember what the first thing was that I ever wrote for other people to read. The teachers at my school didn’t count, because those were assigned pieces. No, the first time I ever wrote something because I wanted to do it, and then shared that piece with the wider world, happened in the summer of 1982. By that reckoning, I’m coming up on thirty years of writing. That’s not so bad, really. It goes to show that time really does fly when you’re having fun.

In the summer of 1982, as I was preparing to enter high school in the fall, my paternal grandmother fell ill. She suffered from renal failure, and in a few months it would claim her life. We went to visit her in the hospital every day, and I had noticed that there was a mail collection slot in the hospital’s main lobby. So my mind went to work.

That summer, I watched a lot of professional wrestling on TV. My favorite show was Georgia Championship Wrestling on WTBS, the “superstation” out of Atlanta, Georgia. My favorite wrestler was was Roddy Piper, who was still a few years away from becoming “Hot Rod” and doing his shtick for Vince McMahon and the WWF. He was known as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper back then, and he had many rivalries with other wrestlers on the circuit.

So one night I wrote a Letter to the Editor of Inside Wrestling magazine. I would buy it with the money that I made on my paper route, and it would tell me things that I wanted to know about the wrestlers I saw on TV. It was as if they were cross-promoting each other, before I ever knew what that term meant.

The letter would probably make me cringe if I could read it today, but I think it’s safely disappeared into mists of time by now. The letter itself was a litany of praise for Roddy Piper, expressing my wish that he would conquer all of his foes and have a long, successful career in the process. I’m sure that his career eventually went better than anyone could have imagined back then.

We went to the hospital to visit my grandma the next day, and I put the letter I had written into the hospital’s mail slot when we arrived. And soon afterwards, I forgot all about it.

I started high school in the fall, and someone else I went to school with must have been reading the same magazine that I wrote to. They saw my letter and showed it to me, and I felt this sense of exhilaration. I had hoped they would print my letter, but I never really counted on it. But to see my name and hometown, right there in print, was just about the best feeling I had yet had in life.

In the intervening years, I’ve written articles and features, stories and poems, and more textbook and assessment materials than I would ever know how to quantify. And I’ve also written some things for this blog and a few others, too. But it all goes back to that first glimpse that I had, that first inkling, that first flash that came from seeing words that were once inside my head, now being presented for other people’s consideration and approval (hopefully).  I couldn’t describe it then, and I’m writing this, so many years later, because it’s still just about the best feeling there is.

Thanks for spending a few moments in the wayback machine with me.