When I was young, the first word I learned to spell was S-H-I-T. Maybe it was because my last name is Schmidt, and if you cross out every other letter it spells S-H-I-T (I'm not kidding here), and someone taught me such things. Maybe because I was a bit of a rebel growing up *see: bad kid*. Or maybe because my sisters were bad influences on me, and wanted to get me in trouble. Who knows? But the first word I remember being able to spell is the word shit.
I remember being so proud of the fact I could spell this word:
"Jim, Jim!" I yelled through the house. "I can spell a word!"
The man who was the closest thing to a father I had, looked at me with pride, "Oh? What word?"
"Shit!" I exclaimed, and with my youthful ignorance, began, "S-H-I-T."
I remember him struggling for a second while I just wanted a pat on the back, or a cookie, or something. Instead, he said, "Do you want to learn a new word?"
I shrugged, I was still stoked about my SHIT.
"Rather than S-H-I-T, put an R between the I and T," he told me.
I looked at him, "S-H-I-R-T." I allowed the letters to roll over in my head for a few minutes, "SHIRT!" I exclaimed, "I'm spelling the word shirt!"
He smiled, "I think that's a little more acceptable than the first word you spelled, no?"
Now, a million years later, sometimes when I get bored, I pick three basic words, words like THE CAT SAT, and see how many words I can spell using only those letters: THECATSAT:
It's a good exercise when you get bored. I also have an affinity toward word games; scrabble, banana-grams, scrabble slam, words with friends, etc. I completely blame Jim for this affliction and my obsession with words.
I think a lot about this moment, the moment I learned how to turn shit into shirt and consider that maybe...just maybe my writing is like that. That that's what editing does for me; turns my shit into shirt, because it's much more acceptable, no?