But I continued to read and to have agreements and arguments with the writers I read. When I became a dad, I returned to the world of picture books and was amazed how much the words and pictures had changed since I was a kid. What was being done with art was amazing and I was surprised by some of the text. Baseball Saved Us, a Lee and Low book, was set in the world of Japanese internment camps. There was no way this topic would have been a picture book in my youth.
As I was reading picture books, I was also surprised by a number of books. Surprised at how bad they were. How had this book been published? Could I write something better? So I took a class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis taught by the excellent writer, Lisa Westberg Peters. She told us we were each going to write a story. I had not written a story since I was boy and didn't know what to write about.
But there is nothing like a deadline, and the week before I was to present, I wrote a story about my favorite memory of being a kid: long drives west at night in August. This was my story, Night Driving--the one I had been waiting to tell. When I read it in class, people liked it and Lisa told me, "This is something you need to take seriously."
I took her advice. I took writing seriously and still do. I write to express myself, to make sense of the world, and to provide the books I would have liked to read as a boy. I write because books provide me a ticket to places I would never go and people I would never meet. I write because I love the feeling of having written.
Now I also use a much broader definition of writing. Writing includes thinking about a story, letting my unconscious mind go to work on a character or situation. Some of this writing I do swimming in the pool, walking by the river, or shooting hoops on the court.
Do I need to write everyday? Now I do.