Sunday, October 05, 2008

I, apparently, know jack.

My friend Jack found me a couple days ago. I think the last time he and I corresponded, I was still in college, or maybe it was grad school. Either way, it's been ten years or more. 

Jack and I met when we both worked at the Electrical Engineering Department where I was an undergrad. I was far from an engineering student -- rather, I was an English major lending her organizational skills to the office manager, so there was nothing glamorous about the work. Jack worked in IT, and since the Mac I used frequently needed help, we saw a great deal of each other.

It wasn't long before I realized that this IT guy knew more about good writing and literature than I could have imagined. More than that, he related to literature in a way I never had -- he lived it, knew the characters as people to pity or admire or learn from, breathed the air they did. It was Jack who taught me how to read, just by hearing how he did it, by talking to him about something he'd recently devoured.

And then there was the writing. As powerfully as any of my college professors had, Jack taught me how to get in touch with what mattered. When he shared with me the notes he jotted when inspiration struck him, I saw how truth could be pulled from the dirt, grimy and gritty, to emerge wholesome and hearty, and sustain you when you needed it. In his soft-spoken voice, there was a musical way he used words that felt real and magical at the same time.

If I have moments of strength in my writing, it is as much because of Jack as it is because of anyone or anything else I have met or done or learned. I owe him a great debt for teaching me how to relate to what I consider to be the core of my personal craft, the craft of writing. 

Thank you, Jack. I'm glad you found me again.

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