The Illiterate Writer

I write things

I write them so you can read them

If you so choose

No one is forcing you

I can barely be bothered myself some days

Reading is such a gift

That I’m grateful my mom gave me everyday

I was a late reader

Too active to be interested in sitting and starring at the page

There was so much world to explore

What fun was learning by book?

By the time I started to pursue reading more actively

I was already old enough to understand how complex the English language was

It daunted me

How could we expect anyone to remember all these rules and exceptions and definitions

Layers upon layers of symbols

That I wasn’t apart of

So I bolstered my ego with it

It became part of my personality

That I just “don’t like reading”

As if it were a matter of preference

I would put the bare minimum effort in to learn

When it didn’t click I would shrug and confirm

“It’s just not for me”

Meanwhile I still spent most of my time outside playing

I started to learn about story, and fantasy, and history, and drama

Our games unfolding their own complex narrative

I started a writing group with my friend although neither of us could spell and we both struggled reading the back of the cereal box

But we knew we could write

We would sit opposite one another on the floor in the basement

Pencil and paper in hand

Each taking turns reciting a line from the story

As one of us would spin the tale the other would jump in with revisions and edits in real time

We carefully crafted plot, character, dialogue, subtext

As we each wrote the story out in our own secret language

We called it our magic language

Because if you didn’t know how to spell a word you would just make it up

Like magic

Little did we realize how important innovations like ours were to the strength of the English language

From Shakespeare to Twain to Snoop Dawg

English is a shapeshifter

Constantly evolving

To welcome the uninitiated

To expand the new frontier

To reflect the many tongues that have enfolded it

To reveal the unknown minds that have shaped it

Once I learned to live with language without the constraints of written literacy

I fell in love

I wanted to know more

To read for myself the stories of the classic authors that had come before me

To seek other worldly knowledge myself beyond my backyard escapades

I wanted to be able to record my thought, ideas, and stories

As scraps of information for future explorers to discover

Once I sat down full of intent to read and write it did not take me long

Granted I already had nine years of experience

Telling stories

Discovering mysteries

Exploring complex ideas

Understanding nature

Questioning everything

Years of listening to my mother read to me

Of being immersed in theatre and oral storytelling

Of seeing the world uninhibited by language’s explanations for things

These were the hidden gifts my mother left for me

The most important of them all was time and trust

Only once I came back to it with my head emptied of ego

Full of wide eyed wonder

Did I learn how to read and write by heart

No sooner, no later


One thought on “The Illiterate Writer

  1. That’s a wonderful piece 🙂 You really have a talent for engaging the reader and keeping them engaged (the reader, in this case, being me).

    I would also add to your list of authors James Joyce and the most magical book of made-up words and literature I know: Finnegans Wake.

    Keep up the great writing full of wonder and freedom!


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