Recently, I’ve been feeling a bit discouraged. A big fat case of the “why bothers”. Then I remembered someone who touched my life. His name was Bill. I’d like to introduce you to him, just a little.
I first met Bill when I was still in high school. Bill was my best friend’s grandfather. In many ways, especially later in life, Bill was like a grandfather to me as well. I was devastated when he passed away in 2015. Bill wasn’t just someone I knew. Bill had an impact on my life.
First, we have to establish that Bill was a certified “good guy”. He never treated me with anything but respect and kindness. Even when I was a young fuckup. I’m sure he wasn’t a saint, but in my experience, he was pretty damn close. Cut from the same cloth at Bob Ross and Mister Rogers when it came to mannerisms.
Bill was also a “badass”. He grew up in a tough era. Served in World War 2. He proposed to his wife the night he met her, married her, and loved her until the day he died. And he saw some pretty serious shit during his 88 years on this planet.
Then, after his wife passed away, Bill took on a new life. Confronted with an excess of free time and an empty house, he knew he had to do something to keep himself going. So, Bill started to write.
Now would be an appropriate time to mention that Bill and computers didn’t mix. After my friend, his grandson, moved away I took up the mantle of “tech support”. The vast majority of the time, I would drive over and have it fixed in less than a minute. But I didn’t care. It was an excuse to hang out with him. And an easy $20. Because Bill always insisted on paying me. No matter how trivial. And he would brook no argument. I was leaving with that $20 in my wallet come hell or high water.
Bill couldn’t touch type. He hunt and pecked at a snails pace. Just his index fingers. Watching him type was almost painful. You’d want to jerk him out of the chair and say “tell me what you want to write and lets get this shit done”. But that didn’t stop him.
And he didn’t stop at just one book. When he finished the second book, he came to me. He asked me to “edit” it and get it ready for printing. My friend had moved away and Bill had me on speed dial. I told him I’d never done anything like that before. He just smiled and said “all I ask is that you do your best”.
So, I did exactly that. I poured over the manuscript for hours. Fixing little errors, unifying the formatting, etc. Far from an ideal scenario. And not one I would recommend. Hire a real editor. But when I was done, Bill looked it over and was happy with it.
Then he asks me to look at a contract he’d been sent by a publisher. The first thing I did was look up the name of the publisher. As I suspected, it was a vanity publisher. I sat down with Bill to explain this to him.
And this is where we get to the point of the story. Bill didn’t care. He didn’t want money. He didn’t want fame. He just wanted people to read what he had written. He probably gave away more copies of his books than he ever sold. And that was just fine with him. He had a story to tell and he wanted to share that with the world.
So, I helped him navigate the process of getting published. We put together a cover and a blurb for the back cover. Then we emailed the finished copy of the book off to the publisher. He cut me a check for far too large of an amount, shook my hand and thanked me. Then he smiled and told me he’d let me know when book 3 was done.
It wasn’t long after that Bill called me one afternoon. He was having some computer trouble and could I come help. I told him that wouldn’t be a problem, and we scheduled a time for me to stop by in a few days when we both had time. Sadly, the day before we were supposed to get together, I got the call I’d been dreading. Bill had passed away. There would be no book 3.
But Bill wasn’t just an author. Bill encouraged others to write as well. Including your’s truly. Every time we talked about writing, he would inevitably ask “So, when are you going to write a book? If I can do it, you can do it.” And I wasn’t the only one. He had an enthusiasm for writing I’d never seen before. Or since. He knew that everybody has a story to tell and encouraged anybody who would listen to tell theirs.
I look over at my bookshelf and I see a lot of names. Salvatore, Martin, King, Sagan, Poe, Lovecraft, etc. Some truly fantastic authors. But the ones that inspire me the most are the 2 written by my friend and mentor, Bill. Those 2 books, and the man behind them, are why I write today.
I don’t write to make money. I don’t write to get famous. I’ll never be on the New York Times bestseller list. I write because I have stories in my head. And I write because an old man with 2 index fingers and a whole lot of time showed me I could.