Hello, my name is Mike, and I am terminally literate.
It’s hard to pinpoint when it started. I have vague early memories of writing things on scraps of paper, great variable-font sagas on backs of matchbooks, quickly hidden away as a parent or sibling drew near. Waves of Palmer Method paisley receding into book bindings. A poem for a third grade valentine:
I love you,
What to do?
I have an idee!
Why don’t you love me!
Matchless. The urge to scribble grew uncontrollable. In our house was a great hulking Smith-Corona, a black altar begging for literary sacrifices. I was drawn to it like a flea to a Persian cat. I composed great works of art, and left them lying about, hoping for words of encouragement from my superiors, basically everyone else in the house. An epic called Ragnar of the Blue Clouds, which disability was incurred when an atom bomb was accidentally dropped in his ear; a political thriller, in which the hero’s promising career was destroyed when it developed that he was an octopus; a sci-fi fable of a world of opposites, paved completely over except for the occasional farmstead. The latter had perhaps the greatest opening line in all of literature: “Ho, Thims Cam! You are how?”
The only response to these gems was intense ridicule by my older brothers, for which I am eternally grateful. That humiliation, that sense of misunderstood creativity, was exactly what I needed. The Holy Rejection had been conferred. I was a true artiste.
Years passed. Great piles of poems and short stories exist in bits and pieces scattered about my personal archives (a couple of boxes in the attic). Excellent fodder for some earnest grad student of the future, in search of something suitably obscure to condemn to even further oblivion by studying it. Assuming, of course, that after a suitably ironic death, I will be discovered as a literary genius by an astonished world.
I minored in Creative Writing in college. Don’t ask. Eventually, I became an archaeologist, and misspent my calling writing reports on recently uncovered examples of The Same Old Stuff. I must say I was unappreciated. On one report of an excavation of a nineteenth-century pioneer farmstead in Illinois, I received the following comment: “Great! Just delete the part about the students at the one-room schoolhouse holding the teacher hostage for whiskey, and we’re good to go!” Philistine.
Well, you know, it is a kind of sickness, writing. I thought I should start a support group for those of us who suffer from it. But, what to call it?
I thought about the obvious, Writers Anonymous, but that seemed inherently redundant. Writanon? But “little dogies” kept tagging itself onto that. Writers Union? Too political, although “WU” does mean “no” in Chinese, which is intriguing. Writers Organization, okay, a bit stodgy, but a dandy acronym, WOE, if I were English. For us Americans, it could be WOA, Writers Organization of America. But then, my internal spellcheck wants the H in there. Writers and … Hoteliers Organization of America? Stodgy, and I doubt the hoteliers would go along with it. Then it hit me.
Writers and Other Obsessed Persons Society.