So I was talking to Vincent Price today, and I had a revelation.
Yep. He’s dead, but I was talking to him. He was speaking to me across the years, and I realized that is exactly what I do as a writer. It’s what any actor does on a film or musician does in the recording studio.
I was listening to Thriller by Michael Jackson. Say what you like about the man, his music was amazing. Or perhaps I just say that because I’m a child of the 80’s. Either way, near the end of the song is a poem read by Vincent Price. Everybody knows the part, and I’ve always loved the unique creepiness of his voice.
My mother was always a fan of his. I doubt if she saw many of his horror movies, but she liked his voice nonetheless. And it was from her that I learned to appreciate Vincent Price, in the same way that I’ve grown to appreciate and enjoy Johnny Cash from my father’s own interest.
So there I was, listening to him read this poem, and I could see him in the recording studio. He was leaning against a tall chair, headphones on, paper on a stand in front of him, mouth at the microphone. As I saw this image in my head, I could imagine what he was thinking, almost like he was standing next to me, talking to me.
He said “This is a gift. I give you this gift, Matt, never knowing what you will think of it. You might love it, you might hate it; I’ll never know. But I do know this: I hope your life is just a little better, just a touch richer than it was before you heard me reading this poem. I want to give you a little piece of myself, so that I may live on, and I hope you take something from this, something that you store up and treasure away. In short, I truly hope you like it.”
I was loading the dishwasher, of all possible things, when this happened, and I stopped short. I stopped because this is what I want to do myself. I write because words build up in my brain like water at a dam. Through my fingers I release some of these words. Through my writing, I relieve some of the pressure. That’s what I get out of it. But that’s just a need. I need to write. I don’t have any other choices (and believe me, I spent 25 years trying to ignore this!).
What I want, my desire in writing, is that one of you, any single person, might read one of my stories and be just a little richer, just a little happier than they were before. I simply, truly, honestly hope that you like what I write.
Not everyone will like what I write, and I’m no Hemingway or Joyce or King. I’m just Matt from Pennsylvania who was promised household robots and flying cars and spaceships and a cure for cancer. But I didn’t get any of those things – and don’t tell me a Roomba is a household robot. You know it’s not the same thing! And so I write. I write because there are stories inside me, stories to be told, stories to be shared. I carry on the tradition – however poorly – of the storyteller sitting at a campfire thousands of years ago, children and adults alike enraptured.
Thank you, Vincent. Thank you for sharing that precious part of yourself with me. You, and others like you, have truly made me a better person. And may I be good enough to pass on what you gave to me, so others may be better as well.