How did I go from being a truckie to a writer?
A friend asked me to write a few lines about my transitional journey from driving to typing, and after a few weeks with that question rattling around in the empty space in my brain, the one that used to be full of McGuiverish tricks for getting road trains unstuck from dry river bed crossings and the such, that I no longer needed since I'm not chasing gears anymore I came up with a somewhat believable answer, maybe I should have asked if she wanted the fiction or the non-fiction version? I'll leave it to you to decide.
I was actually a writer in progress way before I became a truckie, my life went something along the lines of this...
Boarding school, 1st year, voracious reader with knots on my head after getting hit with teachers sniper fired blackboard duster for reading under my desk lid, beginning poet, ---
Boarding School, 2nd year, Voracious Poet (mostly naughty stuff about the Christian Brothers with a somewhat hardcore following of my peers, eagerly awaiting a single page, double spaced hand scribbled Limerick about the Brother of the week. Intermittent reader generally with a flashlight under the covers in the dorm till my batteries died. ---
Boarding School, 3rd year, Voracious Political Satire, Boisterous Blathering Berating Bad Brothers, and some Serious memoir stuff. Books, what the heck is a book? ---
Newman Senior High School --- Girls, wow they have real girls here, books, they were only for marking up covers with the latest version of "Jon love heart ____ fill in the blank," Read many love letters of sorts, and wrote as many bad ones back. ---- Reading, sorry don't have time. ---
Footy --- No time to write, or read... run, run, run, sleep, sleep, sleep. ---
Mining --- Writing, Satirical poetry mostly Anti - (BHP) company, Pro - Union silly stuff but I had pretty much a weekly slot in the towns paper and wrote under the pseudonym "Smegan" bastardization of It's Me, Egan. I had fun doing those pretty much done on the back of a time sheet, but I had a little cultish following. Reading, not a chance. ---
Trucking --- Lots and lots of books on tape, since where I drove you were lucky to get radio reception so I'd buy and listen to wonderful authors reciting their books till the red dirt and dust destroyed the tape, and when that happened (with surprising regularity and pretty much always at some climactic scene,) I'd drive through the night with pretty much just my own thoughts and those thoughts became scenes and scenes became chapters and chapters began to multiply and then I'd hit a destination and those scenes and chapters would disappear right along with the dust destroyed cassette tapes.
After a writing a few books in my head over a couple of months and then always loosing them to sleep or a tough unload, or a breakdown three hundred miles from civilization I did an amazing thing, I actually remembered the next time I was able to swing my road train in through a K-Mart, along with my typical supplies of new thongs (for my feet! sheesh you people,) a couple of pairs of stubbies (short truckie shorts,) a few singlets (Always blue -tank tops-,) that was our unofficial uniform! 26 cartons of coke, 28 cartons of smokes, 4 packets of roll your own smokes in case I ran out of ready mades, couple loaves of bread, cans of beans (cook those beauties on the engine while you drive down the road,) a few steaks (BBQ was always a chance!) and 5 bloody great big bags of ice, and there at the checkout were lined notebooks, must of been back to school time for the kids, so I picked a couple up and they became my novel holders.
So now, I'd be driving down the road and when an idea came to me I'd jot it in my note book after a few weeks of consistently filling note books, then loosing them either in the truck or at home when I hit the house. I graduated to dictation machines and over the course of a few miles I ended up with pretty hefty stash of recorded thoughts and ramblings of an over tired truckie who probably should have been pulled off the side of the road napping instead of driving down the road yakking into a machine which for the most part seemed like it would have been more believable as the ramblings of a certifiably insane male inhabitant from the planet Drongo. The tapes were actually fun to listen to once I was rested up, but they were really gobbley-gook.
Even though I never really was able to salvage my notebooks or tapes from that time, I was always creating them, never ending actually, I very rarely listed to music or radio while I drove, I would spend hours and days just watching the road and the sky and the animals and the weather and the other very occasional truckie or tourist that dared to drive the roads at night with us. And the interesting thing from doing that, was the fact that everything I did while driving became a story, with a tempo and beating heart, the thoughts became words so easily and the smallest of things became gigantic players in my road stories even my hard working engine became a character, and I'd talk to her all the time, but weird as it sounds our most intimate conversations were when I'd been driving for maybe a couple of days non stop except for food and fuel, I'd pull off the road into a clearing in the bush somewhere and shut her down, then I'd lay in my bunk and listen as she'd slowly fall asleep the sounds of cooling components creaking, the sheet metal crackling, and after a few minutes the frogs or crickets or occasional mob of kangaroos eating nearby would dominate the air with their noises every now and then a huge heavy loaded road train would lumber by and you could hear it coming for miles, then it'd chug on past and you'd hear it slowly die out as it put miles between us and those were the most peace filled moments of my life, and those were the times I dreamt of one day being a serious writer and getting down on paper some of what my life had been about.
I emigrated to the U.S. and my life became for the most part pretty typical non stop, trying to make a buck and trucking was a major part of it for over fifteen years, and then one day about ten years ago I began to write again, I'm not even sure why, but I liked what I was doing, and the writing was ok, and Patty liked it and said you need to focus on writing instead of trucking and maybe we'll get to see each other more and maybe, just maybe you could make a living doing it, and so I dabbled a little bit more, and Patty prodded me gently toward writing retreats, and I wrote some more, and Patty prodded me a little harder to attend writing workshops, and I wrote some more, and Patty prodded me to get all Nike on my craft, forget about trucking and just do it. and so now thanks to Patty I have gone from Trucker to Writer and I'm beginning to get much better now at Writing in Spite of Myself.