When I was a kid, my grandfather (a charming old Jew of a man) would give handwritten notes to just about everyone he came in contact with. This isn’t hyperbole: we’d go to hotels and the man would write notes in calligraphy for the people at the front desk just to make them smile. He’d leave longwinded notes for the waitress he’d met less than an hour ago. People would always come up to me and tell me how lucky I was to be Bob Sackman’s grandson, like they were a long lost aunt or uncle that I’d never met. The older I get, the more incredible and endearing that seems.
My grandfather spent his whole life writing things down to make people feel good.
I think about that often. He passed away, but people everywhere around the globe still have his handwriting on paper, a tiny little piece of him that was meant just for them. The effect he had on them was always monumental. Hell, the effect he had on me was always monumental.
He made me want to write. And he taught me the only reason I needed to write was because, “because.”
Then, one day, I began to write for a living and experienced a conflicting moment when I had trouble finding my “because”.
It’s always so petty, that moment.
“I don’t have any good ideas.”
“I don’t have anything interesting to say.”
“I will misspell a word and people will judge me for not being the best at never making a mistake in my writing, all of the time, always.”
“I will incorrectly use effect/affect as I may have done above. Shit, did I incorrectly use effect/affect?”
“People will just rip whatever I say apart and hurt my feelings.”
These are all terrible, horrible, no good, very bad reasons.
Look, writing is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be “because.” It’s important not to lose track of how much great shit happens when you hit keys or write words on paper that are out-of-control feelings you’re dying to share with someone.
There’s some huge misconception about writing—that the people who call themselves writers have any idea what they’re doing. Like everyone thinks they’re Bukowski or Sedaris or Eggers or whoever your “whoever” is.
I didn’t start writing because I had a novel to publish or even an idea of what the hell that would look like. I didn’t start writing because I had some master plan about where this was all going. I started writing because when I was a kid, I saw an old man make people happy by grabbing a pen and not overthinking the words he put to paper.
And I get bummed when I forget that.
When I was a kid, thanks to Bob, I wrote the shit outta everything.
I wrote long-winded love letters to girls. I stretched the birthday card note to the point of “turn over to backside for more” every single time. Christ, I made up books to write book reports about because I could write more about something that I had creative license over.
And I think it’s how people should always write.
It’s easy to overthink it. To think that any piece of writing that you do has to have a point, some giant bigger meaning.
But it should be enough to know that when you write something, anything, it’s like a lottery ticket. Someone could read it and could laugh uncontrollably for the best of reasons. Someone could read it and become violently angry at your view on something (or your “non-view” for that matter). Someone could read it and feel absolutely nothing.
And any one of those things is spectacular.
Because, that’s the “because.” Write just to write. It’s healthy and there is always an amazing off chance that it affects someone more than you had any idea it ever could.
So people might hate what you say. They might really love it. They might feel nothing. Any one of those things is oddly terrifying.
But they will read it.
There’s always the off chance of that, and that’s the whole reason you wrote in the first place.
To make some tiny little piece of you available to anyone who may want it.
It may not be a handwritten calligraphy note, but it’s enough.
It’s more than enough.
Rocket Shoes Mixtape 70: Songs you should listen to while you should write.
STREAM IT at the links below:
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