I was watching an episode of Castle today.
It's a cheesy procedural that relies heavily on the chemistry and wit of its leads, particularly the main character, Rick Castle. Rick, played by geek icon Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame, is an author and, in this particular episode, he confesses something to his lover about an inciting incident in his past... the thing that made him want to become a writer in the first place.
You see, as a child, Rick was forced to buy a term paper and pass it off as his own in order to stay in school. It was a social necessity for him to cheat, but it went beyond just the status quo of staying in his private boarding school. The tainted piece of text was lauded by the teacher and read, out loud, in front of the entire class, garnering the young Rick heaps of praise both from his betters and his peers.
The older, mature Rick confesses this to his lover and he tells her that the guilt associated with that unearned praise drove him to become the successful, honest writer (albeit a fictional one in a scripted police procedural) that he is today.
Hearing this revealing backstory is what brought me to silent tears... it does this because the story echoed my own experience.
When I was in elementary and early middle school... well, let's just say that I wasn't having the greatest time being an outcast among outcasts, a nerdy white kid with temper problems relegated to a special education class in the Atlanta Public School system. I was picked on plenty for being a smart-mouthed, cracker SPED-kid.
At some point, one of my school assignments was a creative writing piece and I, either not knowing any better or not caring at the time, stole someone else's fiction.
If memory serves, it was an Encyclopedia Brown mystery... something about a Civil War relic and, ironically, proving it was a fake because the provenance called a battlefield by it's post-war Yankee name instead of it's mid-war Confederate name.
The rewritten story made everyone happy. Look at him, they said, he'll be a writer.
The worst of it was when my mother used it as a point of pride to friends and family. She was just so impressed and happy and smiled when she told the story of just how smart her troubled son was when it came to the written word.
I was always disappointing my family at that age... to know that one of the few things I did that made them happy was a fraud, killed me.
As well it should've, I guess... and it still gnaws away at me.
I don't remember what grade I got and it was never featured in any school journal or anything, thankfully, but it was a defining moment in my childhood that taught me two very important things: the immorality of plagiarism and the desire for true recognition.
Now, granted, twenty years have passed and I'm not a handsome, massively successful author living in a New York penthouse and sleeping with a beautiful, intelligent homicide detective, but still... every day I get up and write something.
Maybe it's just what I think is an artful comment on a discussion board, or another blog post or movie review for the site, or maybe I actually get up the gusto to create something new and work on a short story, a script, or one of the novels, but it's something.
And seeing a similar remembrance on a show I enjoy from a character I respect and want to emulate... well, it brought me to tears.