The things that made me want to write and made me believe I had stories to tell are not things that get a lot of respect in the literary world or make me cool.
Here, in no particular order, are some of those things:
- Kevin Smith’s movies Clerks and Mallrats.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and all related texts by Douglas Adams.
- Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding.
- Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman.
- The television shows Burn Notice and Arrested Development.
Several years ago, my friends and I got tickets to a Q&A with Kevin Smith at the Merriam Theater. There were expletive-soaked stories and lurid and graphic tales of sexual proclivities. Anyone who knows who Kevin Smith is would expect nothing less. What I didn’t expect was that some random dude would ask a question that would literally alter the course of my entire life.
Random dude: I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how to get started.
Smith: If you write, you’re a writer.
That’s it. It’s just that simple.
I have written about this before. I have talked about how that one simple answer lodged in my brain like the ear worm from Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan. It whispered to me in my waking hours and screamed at me in the middle of the night when I tossed and turned and fretted and worried that I had missed my opportunity to do the thing with my life that really meant something to me. Somewhere along the line I had gotten the idea that my ideas weren’t serious enough or the things that inspired me weren’t important enough.
But I could write. I could be someone who writes.
So, let’s just say, when Silent Bob speaks, it behooves me to listen.
Today, I saw Kevin Smith again. The idea was that he and Jason Mewes (aka Jay and Silent Bob) would talk about their new book Jay & Silent Bob’s Blueprints for Destroying Everything at The Reading Room in Bryant Park. But Mewes is sick and didn’t make the trip from California. So what happened was another Q&A with Smith. But instead of a crowded theater in Philadelphia, this one took place in a leafy corner of the park in the shadow of the New York Public Library building—the one that I can never look at without thinking about Ghostbusters.
For an hour and a half, Smith took questions about his show Comic Book Men on AMC, Clerks, Dogma, Batman, Ben Affleck, and Ben Affleck as Batman. As he had in Philadelphia, he talked a lot about creativity and self-expression. He is a strong proponent of the podcast as a medium and as a way to capture the stories and moments with the important people in your life. “Everyone has a story to tell,” he said. “Just because you’re some random dude in New Jersey doesn’t mean you don’t have something to say.”
Since I saw Kevin Smith the last time, I have gotten an MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts. I have a couple of published credits to my name and I’m working on a couple more. None of that is easy. There are lots of roadblocks and lots of gatekeepers. Smith talked about that today, too. “Don’t wait for someone to tell you what success is,” he said. If you feel good about what you’re doing–“if your side of the street is clean”–then keep going. Try. Just give it a shot. “You don’t have to wait to be invited into something awesome.”
Sometimes, you are lucky enough to come across the thing you need right when you need it. For me, the inspirational lightning has struck twice in the form of a guy from Jersey with a foul mouth and jorts.
So, I write. I am a writer. And I’m going to keep on writing.
And I’ll wear this Hitchhiker’s Guide t-shirt while I’m doing it.