“SMITH has been a wonderful outlet to share my highs and lows…I publish more Sixes when I’m not afraid. When I don’t allow self-doubt to steer my ship.”
JohnBigJohn joined Six Words just after the New Year of 2012, which makes this New Year a fitting time to feature his Six-Word Memoirs: 600+ and growing. With his humor about faith (“I must be God’s favorite sitcom.”) and his witticisms (“Stuck in mental traffic. Abandoning car.”), John’s memoirs show us how being funny has served him well through the best and worst of times. Join us in congratulating John as our first Memoirist of the Month for 2014, which includes props and a T-shirt with the Six-Word Memoir of his choice from Spreadshirt. Learn more about John’s story as he answers our six questions.
How did you first hear about Six-Word Memoirs and is there someone’s writing on SMITH that’s especially moved you?
I saw an article about SMITH in Writer’s Digest a couple of years ago and thought I would check it out. I was swept away immediately by the talent, wisdom, heart, and wit of the contributors. I spent a few weeks just reading everyone else’s memoirs before I had the guts to scribe my own.
Yes, I am a SMITH stalker. I spend a lot more time reading other Sixes than writing my own. I won’t bore you with my huge list of SMITH writers that I’m addicted to, but DynamicDbytheC has particularly moved me over the past year. Her writing has been raw, brave, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspirational. Her Sixes seep with life’s joy and pain. Her courage and love have stirred me. She is an absolute gift to this writing community.
When did you start writing, and what have been turning points in your creative life?
I started writing in fourth grade because I had a crush on a curly-haired girl named Stacy. One of my sources informed me Stacy loved stories about horses. I scrawled out an epic tale (two whole pages!) about a horse named “Dusty Brown Coat” who wanted to escape the confines of his ranch. I don’t recall the details, except that Dusty was eaten by a hungry wolf. It was a cautionary “grass is always greener” story sure to win Stacy’s heart. Turns out she hated it. Apparently, Stacy wasn’t ready for my graphic demise of Dusty Brown Coat. After that failed attempt of writing to woo the ladies, I continued writing because I really wasn’t good at anything else.
God must’ve decided it would be funny if I was born into an extremely right-brained family. My dad was a pharmacist, my mom was a strict elementary school teacher, and my older brother was a math savant who now works at Microsoft. I struggled in school for many years (to the horror of my academically-minded family), but I connected to writing—it was the sole thing I did well. Writing gave me a voice and a thin sense of purpose. I’m not sure how I would have survived my teen years without putting pen to paper.
These days I write for my own mental health (“Writing is cheaper than a therapist.”). I write to discover who I am. I write to rid my heart of emotional toxins that accumulate. Writing is the only thing I feel truly connected to—I probably spend at least an hour a day writing and I keep almost all of that for myself. Just like that awkward teen, I’m still writing to give myself a voice and a sense of purpose.
You’ve written extensively about parenting a son with autism. Can you share a favorite Six-Word Memoir, Moment or other backstory of yours on SMITH; tell us why it’s meaningful to you and what spurs your creative bursts?
My son, Noah, was diagnosed with autism eleven years ago. It has been a transformative experience. It melted me down into a puddle of who I was and reformed me into somebody completely different. (“His Autism broke and rebuilt me.”)
I often believed I was the worst possible person to father a child living with autism. A perfectly terrible combination of egotism, cowardice, and emotional frailty. Witnessing Noah’s brave journey has changed the entire way I view life. While I will never forgive autism for the wall it has placed between my son and the rest of the world (“Sometimes he only screams for company.”), I will never forget the lessons it has taught me (“Autism declared war. I declared love.”).
SMITH has been a wonderful outlet to share my highs and lows—my writing about Noah’s autism is uncalculated and straight from my heart. Some are penned from moments of joy and hope; others are formed from heartbreak and grief. A Six that sticks with me was one of my more hopeless moments in 2012. I allowed the riptide of sorrow to pull me under and I wept at my laptop as I wrote: “Autism coils. I’m prying my best.” (Ed. note: John’s backstories are as compelling as his Six Worders, take a moment to click and read this one).
I publish more Sixes when I’m not afraid. When I don’t allow self-doubt to steer my ship. I’ve deleted more Sixes than I have actually written. When I press the “publish” button it is always a victory against my snide inner critic. SMITH is packed full of amazing writers that there are days when it’s easy to feel like I can’t keep up with the genius on the feed.
What authors inspire you or do you admire?
I’m inspired by anybody who writes from a place of honesty. My tastes are pretty wide in variety I admire the sharp wit of David Sedaris and I love the heart of Maya Angelou. I don’t want a writer to try and impress me…I want them to make me feel something. I’m also a huge fan of Steve Martin. I would like to find a way to be adopted by him.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time and what do you enjoy doing?
For years in rodeo-loving Cheyenne, I managed our family’s drug store that opened in 1889. It closed a few years ago and I’ve since spent my time being an unshaven stay-at-home dad, writing, performing improv comedy, and trying to figure out who the heck I am. I enjoy teaching improv. Cooking. Singing. Trying to be a good father and husband. Looking for miracles. (“Joy and hope are kissing cousins.”)
Finally, what are your Six Words for today?
Almost 40. Almost time for plaid.