The boy who never wrote

“What’s that?”
He didn’t seem interested in the thick black binder until I opened it, even though it had been in his hands just a moment before.
Saturday evening was particularly pleasant, the weather just cool enough to make it worth spending a few minutes outside. My husband was working on cutting down the old, dying maple tree in the front yard. I decided to work, too – Though my work is much different.

As tends to happen in small neighborhoods like ours, as soon as someone was outside, neighborhood children appeared in our yard. They’re a curious bunch, always wanting to see what’s going on. If there’s tools, toys, or machines involved, they’re even more likely to appear. So I wasn’t surprised when I sat my binder down on the only front porch chair, helped move a branch my husband had cut, and turned to find Jordan sitting with my binder on his lap.

It was just a boring black binder until he handed it to me. As soon as I sat on the edge of the porch and opened it up, Jordan was leaning over my shoulder. The very first page was nothing special to look at, just a size 12 Times New Roman font, double-spaced and marked all over with glittery red ink. I think it was the glitter, sparkling in the setting sun, that caught his eye.
“It’s a book,” I said, holding the binder up for him to see. “I’m writing it. It’s about halfway done.”
His eyes went round, his mouth working in a big “O”. His brother, Ty, did a double-take from where he stood.
“Halfway done and it’s already that big?” Ty asked, sounding surprised.
“Well, yes, but it’ll be much smaller when it’s in real book form. This is only printed on one side, so it’s twice as big as the real thing will be.” I showed them how it was printed, the back of each page blank, some of them with notes scribbled all over.
Jordan moved closer, observing at the words scratched out or replaced with a glazed look in his eyes. “So what do you have to do?”
I wasn’t sure what he meant.
“To write it? What do you have to do to write?” he asked.

I realized then that I wasn’t sure I knew the answer.
“You just do it,” I said, turning through a few pages. “You have an idea for a story and you just write it down. All you do is tell the story. Then you read it again to make sure everything makes sense, and change whatever doesn’t.”  It seemed so obvious to me, I never would have expected someone would want me to explain it.
“Haven’t you ever written anything?” I asked.
Jordan shook his head.

Many of my friends are writers. Writing comes to us as naturally as sleeping or breathing to anyone else. It’s simply a part of who we are.
As people tend to do, I’ve spent most of my life becoming friends with people who share interests with me. Since so many people I associate with either already identify as writers or identify as people who wish to write, I’ve all but forgotten how few people really sit down and do it. Many people will say they want to write a book, some even have stories in mind, but how many will actually take the time to make it happen?

But not everyone understands the compulsion or desire to write. As a bibliophile, I can’t wrap my mind around this. The written word is a huge part of my everyday life, but a passion for reading isn’t something found in many people, either. My mother was always an avid reader. But in all my life, I can’t recall ever seeing my father pick up a book. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t read, where I wasn’t interested in books. Seeing one of the neighborhood children so mystified by the concept of a book and the act of writing one was both surprising and saddening to me, though I know it could have nothing to do with his schooling or his way of life.

Maybe books just don’t speak to him the way they always have to me.
Maybe he’s never been presented with a story that really caught his interest.
Either way, though, I feel like both of us learned something in that moment on a quiet Saturday night. You could see the way his concept of books changed, in realizing the people who write them are people just like us, living normal, everyday lives. And for me, it was an important reminder that not everyone understands my craft. Books are an amazing thing, and as a writer, it’s important for me to be prepared to introduce someone to the written word at any time.
Perhaps I’ll sit on the front porch to write more often.

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