The war within me on whether I would direct my talents toward drawing or writing was fought and the lines drawn when I was in junior high school.
As I recall, my initial desire was to be able to draw, to be an artist. It wasn’t so much that I chose art over writing as it was that Mrs. Sybil Rogers, my English and grammar teacher, rolled out far too many rules regarding punctuation and grammar, and she forced me (well, the class) to do things like memorize and be able to repeat all of the prepositions. She made me diagram sentences more complex than a treasure hunter’s map to the Ark of the Covenant. It got to be daunting.
Art, on the other hand, was just a matter of picking up a pencil and drawing stuff on paper. Unfortunately, my ‘drawings’ were not so good. The people I drew looked like dogs, my dogs looked like horses (or something with three legs and possibly a fence post), and my horses looked like they were genetic experiments conducted by some visiting aliens (not to be confused with undocumented workers).
So, while Mrs. Rogers was making the life of an artist look more and more inviting, the trouble with learning that vocation stemmed directly from the fact that, while I had to take an English course of some type, every year for the 12 years of my education, my little school did not offer one course in drawing. After wasting an enormous amount of time trying to draw animate and inanimate objects, I gave up. I changed my perspective, so to speak.
I learned to write. My mother and father liked my writing, and I was given considerable encouragement from Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Legg (two remarkable bastions of the English language). When I went to the University, my teachers constantly encouraged me to write. “Could be another Faulkner. He has the life experiences.” One teacher’s opinion, another thinks differently, “Hemingway – maybe?” Teacher One thinks not, “No, Faulkner. DG likes to color all over the language while keeping within the lines.” How could I deny the words and opinions of such experts? Why else would I pay so much money to attend the university if I did not respect the opinions of these tenured professors. I apologize, Mr. Faulkner.
I never became a writer. Hell no! I was brought into this world as a sharecropper, and I was pretty damn sure – having suffered enough years of it – I was not going to go out of this world as a sharecropper. I got a job working in industry and gave up every dream I ever had because, upon my nagging insistence, my wife gave me a son and a daughter. Nothing – not one thing in my bucket of dreams – mattered as much as keeping them secure. Writers have a problem doing that.
I retired. My battling days were over. I stepped off the battlefield and settled down to a life of repairing a huge house. Trouble is, the battle on whether to be a writer or to be able to draw had not ended. In the midst of thinking I had finally found tranquility in my “I wanna’ be a…” battle, I learned it was never settled. Apparently, it was just a cease fire until reinforcements could be mustered.
Now, I have sixty something years of stories that have built up inside of me complete with settings, characters, conflicts, and resolutions, and all of them waiting for a chance to be seen and heard. I took a course – a great teacher – and I stepped back onto that metaphorical battlefield first with short stories that became novelettes that are now becoming novels. It seems I am also back back in college now to learn to draw because I have images – paintings – that demand to be made a part of this world.
The battle – screw it, I call a truce. These two will just have to figure out how to peacefully co-exist. Meanwhile, my wife wants me to finish the work on this big ass house.