By Jim Hagarty
I first had a piece of my writing published 50 years ago this year, in a high school newspaper.
It was written out of love. Not love of writing. Love of a girl in my class who had my 24/7 attention. She was a writer and smart as a dewdrop. So, I could easily see that I needed to be a writer too if any of the fantasies I was having about her would ever come true.
She wrote poetry. Obscure stuff. I never understood a word of it. She was the Atlantic Ocean; I was a parking lot puddle after a light rain. So my first published piece, of course, was a poem. In restrospect, more like an unpolished nursery rhyme. In fact, rhyming was my key objective. I rhymed everything. Not only at the end of lines, but in the middle and even at the beginning. She hated my poetry and that feeling somehow started to transfer over to the poet. And while we kissed a few glorious times eventually, she realized she could not be seen in public with such a terrible writer so she sat down and wrote me, in a very unobscure style, a Dear John letter. I understood every word of it.
I moved on. Found myself a younger student with long, flowing blonde hair and a vocabulary that was peppered with the word “ain’t.” More my style. She never wrote a word as long as I knew her. But she kissed up a storm and I was fully onboard with that.
Eventually, however, like my first love had done to me, I decided I was destined for more greatness than this and after one too many “ain’ts” and a hundred too few kisses, I moved on. For me, that was one move too many and a half century later, there is a tiny ember in my heart still glowing for her.
And in spite of my earlier cataclysmic rejection by my girl Shakespeare, I kept on writing. And lo and behold, I found people in the world who were willing to pay me for my scribblings. These people were called editors and they worked at newspapers and they gave me a desk and sent me out interviewing farmers, factory workers and firefighters.
Life was good for a few decades till one day, one of those editors told me she was sick of paying me for my writing so she sent me home but told me to keep writing. I did that. I became a freelancer. I lanced for free, day in, day out. And still do.
Sometimes I write some poetry. It rhymes very well. And is not one bit better than the poetry that caused my first love to send me packing.
But if you are a writer, you don’t have much choice but to write, well or badly. Like a cat that, despite happily chowing down its three squares a day, still goes on homicidal binges in the backyard between meals.
I have never suffered from writer’s block. Readers’ block. Faced that a few times.
Starting with the girl of my dreams in Grade 10.
Believe me, it ain’t much fun when it happens.