Why did William Gay not publish until the age of 57???

Being someone compelled to write is really a curse for some of us.  The need to say something doesn’t always come with the prerequisite knowledge of actually knowing how to say it. You often read words slaved over by others and knowingly think “how the hell did this get printed.”  I know, I’ve been there. The truth is that it probably got printed due to persistence. Persistence on the part of the writer. Persistence on the part of the writer’s representative. Persistence of whatever…  Good writing isn’t the only writing that gets printed, it is just the end result of loads of bad writing in most instances.

Every time I think about what it might take to turn writing into a career, I relive a moment I had with the author William Gay a few years back. William was speaking at a little “soiree” that was put together by my friend Robert Hicks. He and Robert were bantering back and forth of course. A few of us had the pleasure of witnessing the two stoically Southern, difficult, hard-headed grown boys joust back and forth over words and old lies. Robert asked William why he waited so long to write a novel and to my surprise William looked right back at him with those cold-black eyes (cold Budweiser in hand) and said, “Robert, it took me that long to write a good one.”  William had written before, but he had never seen the value in printing something not deemed worthy of reading by others I suppose. Hell, in the years since that night, I have seen and handled many of William’s personal notebooks and such. He wrote a ton. He wrote just to write. He wrote in the margins and bi-lines between and amongst other, earlier writing.

At some point I want to write a better piece on the Southern writers I have met over the years. I want to write specifically about William Gay. This was a man who had no cell phone, no car, no driver’s license (I’m pretty sure about that one), and no care in the world for the judgements of those who would call this insane.

I want to write about William Gay. That said, honestly I don’t think my writing is good enough to spin that yarn quite yet.

Mike Cotter

“The Transforming World of Collectible”

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