The life they were so hell-bent on preparing me for bored the living shit
out of me. It seemed way too serious. I saw more meaning in the mysteries of the ocean and
the planets than in theology or religion. I was too busy figuring out ways to skip school,
go diving, and get laid. My heroes were not presidents; they were pirates. Emerging from
adolescence with a healthy "lack of respect for the proper authorities,"x and a
head full of romanticism and hero worship, I was able to come up with an answer.
Q. What are you going to do with your life?
A. Live a pretty interesting one.
I have been called a lot of things in these fifty years on the good old planet Earth, but the thing I believe I am the most is lucky. I have always looked at life as a voyage, mostly wonderful, sometimes frightening. In my family and friends I have discovered treasure more valuable than gold. I have seen and done things that I read about as a kid. I have dodged many storms and bounced across the bottom on occasion, but so far Lady Luck and the stars by which I steer have kept me off the rocks. I have paid attention when I had to and have made more right tacks than wrong ones to end up at this moment--with a thousand ports of call behind me and, I hope, a thousand more to see. My voyage was never a well-conceived plan, nor will it ever be. I have made it up as I went along.
The Fifty-Year Reality Check
A List of Things to Do by Fifty
Learn to play the guitar or the piano
Learn to cook
Learn another language
Take flying lessons
Swim with dolphins
Go to New Orleans and Paris
Learn celestial navigation (or at least how to find the planets in your solar system)
Go to the library
Just Getting It on Paper
My writing style is a rather unrefined stream of consciousness; I don't know when to stop telling the story. I have always begun a writing project with a loose idea of a story but without actually knowing where I'm going or how I'm getting there.
I started out wanting to be a Serious Southern Writer. My mother had made me a reader and stressed the legacy of my family's Mississippi roots. William Faulkner, Walker Percy, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O'Connor were household names--Mississippians who had made people take notice. I have a feeling my mother hoped way back then that she might have had her own serious writer in the making.
Then, just as I was about to get serious about journalism, along came that "devil music," and my whole life and direction changed course. Music replaced literature, and nightclubs were more fun than libraries. Yes, that rock 'n' roll had a definite effect on what kind of writer I became. By the time I had spent a few decades on the stages of the world, I knew I might still write one day but that I would never be a Serious Writer. There was this strange stigma I associated with Serious Writers, seeing them as tortured, lonely individuals whose somber fatalistic existences were accentuated by drunkenness, isolation, and depression. Well, I knew I wasn't one of those people. I was too warped by the court-jester--like behavior that's essential to being a good stage performer. I knew that whatever I wrote, it would have a heavy layer of humor. By the time I expanded my horizons from three verses and a couple of choruses to short stories, and then prose, my sense of humor naturally came along for the ride.
Besides, I don't have the talent to compete with the Great Serious Writers. Anyway, writing is not a competition to me. Writing is fun, and I am simply a storyteller. I also really enjoy the self-discipline writing requires. It's a great challenge, like learning celestial navigation or becoming a seaplane pilot. Anyone bellying up to a bar with a few shots of tequila swimming around the bloodstream can tell a story. The challenge is to wake up the next day and carve through the hangover minefield and a million other excuses and be able to cohesively get it down on paper.
Use of this excerpt from A Pirate Looks at Fifty by Jimmy Buffett may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or additions whatsoever, and must be accompanied by the following copyright notice: Copyright© 1998 by Jimmy Buffett. All rights reserved.
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