Last night I watched again Part I of Ken Burns’ Mark Twain. I think it reminds me of who I am as a writer. No, I am not being all big-head arrogant and full of myself. I devoured certain writers as a youth, consumed them whole. Charles Dickens was my first passion, followed by J.R.R. Tolkien, and then Mark Twain. Of all of them, Samuel Clemens is the most like me. He was from the Midwest, born and raised in Missouri along the Mississippi River. I am from the Midwest, born and raised in Iowa along the Iowa River. He endured hardship and tragedy as a youth, losing his little brother in a riverboat accident, and he dealt with it by humor. I endured a sexual assault from an older boy, and dealt with it by… well, you get the picture. We are alike, him and I. We both draw upon the place we grew up, the people we have known, and the events of our youth to create stories.
It is a pretty big responsibility to follow in his footsteps, and I will probably never live to see the success and the wealth that came to him. But I have a responsibility to the people I knew and the time that gave rise to me to tell their story. I need to build a network of stories that resonate the truth of existence that I have been witness to. A big responsibility… and I probably will not live up to it. But I have to try.
Being a writer is somewhat like being cursed. The words burn inside, needing to get out, needing to be heard. I have stories that need to be told, and they will be told, even if only to file away in the closet again. Like Mark Twain, I am good at feeling sorry for myself. And the Mickey part of me, the writer part of me, is just like Mark Twain, a writer persona, and not the real man himself. I am simply the container for something that has to exist and has to tell stories. It is not a bad thing to be. But the more I get to know it, the more I would not wish the destiny on others.
Forgive how sad and bunglingly boorish this post is. But sometimes there are thoughts I simply have to think. And as a writer, I am bound to write down the silly things that I think.