Have you ever had a person speak into your life and guide you? You probably have, even if that guidance was terrible.
I have been lucky to have many wise people in my life that took the time to tell me what they saw. My sixth grade teacher was a lot wiser man than I gave credence to when I was too busy to go to his class. I was on the edge of junior high with more hormones and ideas than people to hear them, let alone help me find a voice to employ. I was the kid with rumpled smelly clothes and the big plastic grocery bag instead of a cool lunch box. I was terribly alone (who ISN'T in junior high). I needed to fix a lot of things instead of wasting my time in school on useless stuff like history, Bible, literature, science, and math. Who has time for class in junior high?
But on one of my rare attendances, a day on which brain chemistry ebbed long enough for retention, something he said stuck with me.
He stood by the green chalkboard and asked the class a simple question. "How do you make friends?"
Now, ask that of college girls or business associates and you'll get some actionable answers. But a room of sixth graders? Most of our desks suddenly had become fascinating. After sufficient silence from the class (with the exception of front-row-hand-popper-girl-with-perfect-hair) Mr. Dixon told us about the value of making friends. I went to a Christian private school so it was 50-50 on whether this was about to become the "Good Samaritan," or the "Jesus is our Friend" talk. But then he surprised me and said two things that have come to shape me.
First he said, "You need to figure out who you are, before you can be that person for anyone else."
[insert adolescent gray matter fragments exploding across a green chalkboard. A chalkboard before which stood a wise man saying wise things that were unrecorded by said gray matter.]
Then he said, "To figure out who you are, spend time alone without TV or books or friends. See what happens."
Maybe it sounds cliche today, but it was earth shattering wisdom to my socially awkward pimply self.
When I wasn't busy cutting class I was driven to be an overachiever. So, I went home and followed his suggestion. I went home determined to find a quiet spot. Just like he said, I left my books, my nanopet, and markers in the house. I stepped out my door into the magical forest behind my house that expanded for several days journey on horseback (it was 2 acres people). I hiked for days to find a spot that was sufficiently rugged and close enough to the house that I could hear if my mom called me in for dinner.
I sat on a spongy wet stump and watched bugs float around in the evening sun. I still watched after the bats came out to eat them.
The strangest thing happened that day. When it was quiet and there was no one near me.
I stopped feeling terribly alone.
I found something friendly in silence. Night rose. I had to go inside and pretend to sleep. School was still boring. I still didn't listen to the brilliance of Mr. Dixon. People were still confusing and mean. I went back to the spongy stump.
I went back the next day, for as many next days as you could think of. The weather turned and I looked out the window at my stump. I moved to a new stump when that one was more foothold than seat.
But, that little spot is where I discovered my first book. I finished writing it the summer before I turned 13. It's awful, and perfect. No, it's not Winded Embers. No, I'm not going to publish it.
So the question remains. Why stories?
Honestly, I still have no idea. I can't fully explain why or where that first story came from.
I don't really care about that question anymore. That's as far as I've come.
Maybe I'd have the answer if I asked Mr. Dixon.