The One Word I Have Trouble Saying

by Chris Illuminati
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It was, without a doubt, the best review of any of my published work.

The headline, plastered on prime real estate on page two of my hometown paper, mentioned the names of national comedy legends. Both men were born in my hometown (or close proximity) the latter a personal idol and the guy people constantly compare my wit and delivery.

I’ve only read the review once. On the morning of that interview, in a bustling Dunkin Donuts where every customer ordered a coffee and gave a side glance of “why’s that guy get getting interviewed?” with their usual cream and two Splendas, I made the dumbest comment ever in regard to my short writing career. Naturally, the quote made the cut, the author sandwiching it in between gushing praise over the sense of humor injected into a textbook (and typically trite) material.

I felt stupid for saying it and it looked even dumber in print.

There’s a photo push-pinned to the bulletin board above my desk depicting a youthful Hunter S. Thompson; it captures the pre-gonzo journalist in Puerto Rico during his brief tenure as a stringer for US newspapers. Sitting in shade from the afternoon sun, a pad of paper on his lap and weapon of mass destruction in his hand, Thompson’s thoughts appear to pour out of his soul faster than the bottle of Cerveza resting alongside his legs. The genius malcontent is scratching out what could be, for all I know, possibly the worst prose in his 67 years on Earth. In my mind though, Thompson at his worst far outshines even my best-constructed composition.

The innocently routine question, “How did you become a writer?” slipped from the interviewer’s lips and wafted among the aromas of baking donuts and burnt coffee.

Hunter’s afternoon beach brainstorm on my mind, after staring at the photo just hours earlier in the midst of another epic brain fart coming out instead of article ideas, the answer bumbled past my lips.

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and it took 10 years to happen, and I’ve written books but I still don’t think of myself as a writer. To me, a writer wakes up, does a yoga stretch, peers out the window, sits in front of a typewriter and spends the next eight hours writing. That’s not me. My words help me pay the mortgage.”

I’ve written five books in five years. I’ve been published in several major magazines. I have editors, publishers and an employer convinced — possibly fooled — that I’m a writer. I’ve yet to convince myself.

I display the habits of a writer — every tale I’m told inspires the start of a short story. Every article idea scratched out on a cocktail napkin. A book chapter is scribbled on a coffee cup. A fresh angle to an old tale is jotted down on the backside of a catalog envelope (which is where I outlined this very article) and serves as proof I live like a writer. Even if I’m not shirtless and alone in the Caribbean or drinking my life away in a desolate cabin, my career is still similar to the titans of literature.

I’ll announce it here, loud and proud, on a website dedicated to writing like the way an alcoholic tells a room full of people struggling with a similar issue.

I am a writer. And don’t let anyone else, especially me, tell you otherwise.

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