A writer writes.
The first draft is strictly personal. Subsequent revisions usually take into account the audience. For me, this essay will be a moment of pure introspection. I promise it won't run long.
Like most writers (except for Stephen King, who in his prime pumped out approximately 3.7 novels per week) I find writing an arduous journey.
Like most hacks, I often think my writing is better than its merits.
To both of these rules I claim one exception: writing about my family.
Words flow at a moment's notice as I experience life with my wife and sons, 11 and 6. They hand me inspiration like an ice cream cone on a hot day, delicious and time-bound, enticing me to turn a sweet minute into a story before it drips forgotten through my fingers.
The finished product, however, almost never satisfies me. I demand perfection, which is an unrealistic goal for a writer.
There’s little wonder how I became this way.
My father, a journalist and editor, was a marksman with a typewriter (that's an antique texting device, my millennial friends). I remain in awe of his old column clippings and letters. He could write a hell of a story, with Ernest Hemingway’s efficiency and Mark Twain’s wit, and sometimes his stories were about our family.
One of my favorites was about how he and I flew aboard "Dolphin One” – his term for the NFL Football Miami Dolphins’ team plane – in November 1984 to see Miami play the New York Jets. The team’s brass was courting his newspaper company to lease a corporate suite at the future Joe Robbie Stadium, so I got to tag along.
It was an incredible junket for a sixteen-year-old to take with his old man. I remember cornering several players on the plane to sign a football that I kept cradled in the crook of my arm that entire weekend. Quarterback Dan Marino signed it in the hotel bar. Linebacker Bob Brudzinzki in the lobby. Utility player and fan favorite Jim “Crash” Jensen in the gift shop.
After the game, a 31-17 Miami victory, we piled onto the team bus. I grabbed a window seat and fingered “10-0” on a frosted pane. That was the Dolphins' record, and one of several high points in a season that would end with a lopsided Super Bowl defeat.
I’ll always remember that weekend as my best personal sports story.
What's more, I’ll always have my dad’s remembrance of it, because he wrote the story on the plane ride home, and it printed in his paper the next day. The Associated Press picked it up, and the New York papers ran it, too.
That story and many others are part of his legacy to me: details of my family’s life documented in the moment and preserved forever, with the bonus of being done so by a great writer. I also love reading his stories that pre-dated me but included my mother, older brother and others – characters so familiar that I feel uniquely qualified to imagine myself there as it happened.
For this reason, I write about us. I just hope I write well enough to be worth the reading.
Working toward that goal, I have gotten advice from the best.
From Twain I learned to "write what you know,” to which I would add the corollary: "write what you've just witnessed.” It’s the surprising moments that make me reach for my notepad app or run to the keyboard, such as Son #2 teaching the cat how to do exploding fist-bumps or Son #1 remarking to Mommy that he's officially as tall as her boobs.
Hemingway's straightforward directive, “Write drunk, edit sober,” boosts my creativity from time to time. I know it's not a sustainable strategy for the long haul, but if I'm in a pinch on a Saturday evening? What the hell — three beers a smooth writer makes.
Even Mr. King has helped me with his warning: “the adverb is not your friend.” That's exceptionally good advice.
The best advice of all, however, comes from you, my readers, friends, relatives and colleagues who urge me to “keep writing."
On behalf of my family, thank you.
I hope you take the time to write a story about yours.