Words Get Me Into Trouble But I Can’t Stop Using Them
On the joys of writing (even if people hate you for it)
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a few words can be more dangerous than a thousand bullets. And you can quote me on that because I know.
My first grade teacher was a smiling, effete young man with golden curls that would have made all three bears sit up and eat their porridge. Mr. Barrett wrote a little note on my report card in 1987 that would stay with me throughout my life:
“I love Gabe’s creative writing.”
Quite a note to get as a seven-year-old and quite a note for his parents to see. To this day, my parents are probably prouder of that note than any of my so-called “creative writing” from any decade of my life. They are keepers of secrets and hoarders of shame, living their lives behind shoji screens, drawn blinds, and locked doors. As a child, I inherited some of this intense, illogical desire for privacy. I would get up in the middle of dinner to turn the little knob on the base of the door that led to the patio, drawing shut the blinds inside the door. My family would look at me quizzically during this operation and I would turn to them and say, “What? I don’t need anybody out there watching me eat.”
Of course, I was hiding in plain sight on the stages of my youth.
It’s funny that at such a young age I was obsessed with concealing and hiding. I frequently disappeared beneath my parents’ bed when the FedEx driver rang the doorbell for a signature on a package. But I also started to become enthralled with the idea of being an actor — being front and center, exposed and vulnerable, bathed in light and bereft of devices behind which I could hide. Of course, I was hiding in plain sight on the stages of my youth: behind a costume, a fake mustache, silver hair applied with a toothbrush, always an accent — the true voice hardly ever appeared.
Around the same time I became quite interested in sharing my writing with others. I enjoyed watching people read my writing, although I can’t imagine it was very enjoyable to have a teenage author descend upon you with his eyes while you were reading his latest acerbic, salicylic acid-induced…