Whatever made you want to write? Were you born writing or did you have to learn the skill? I have been asked these questions several times of late. Perhaps it is because I am blogging more again. At any rate....I decided that on this drury, rainy and YET warmer spring day.....that I would tell the story of "writer" me. You know you are dying to hear it....RIGHT?! So here goes...........
I can't speak for all writers but for me.....my journey has been an A to Z journey and I am still somewhere in the middle of the alphabet. My "A" started out with my parents. They never talked down to my brother and I nor did they talk baby talk. My mother was a nurse and therefore a walking dictionary of medical terms. My dad simply felt that kids were just small adults and so he spoke to us like we understood words like "fortitude" and "exuberance" even when we were toddlers. Because of this, when I started school.....my vocabulary was miles beyond most of the kids in my class. Another thing that was initially for my parents benefit but ended up benefiting me, was the fact that if my parents wished to talk about something in front of me that they didn't want me to know or understand.....they spelled the words. My mother was a master at this. She could spell a sentence faster than anyone I have ever seen. My dad and most others often had a hard time understanding Mom's lightening speed spelling, but very soon....I could decipher it as fast as she could spell it. Being left out of a conversation was just not an option for me. I attribute all of this to the fact that I did so well in spelling, reading, writing and most language arts....as long as they were in English.
My next step into my writing journey was also thanks to my mom. I always tell people that you can't be a good writer unless you are a good reader. My mother was an avid reader and ever so often she would take a weekend and "read." By this I mean that she would devour as many books as she could in 48 hours. Depending on size and content, I have seen her read 4-5 books over a weekend. It was her escape and her enjoyment. It was cheaper than shopping and didn't have the after affects of drinking and yet it was still therapy. My mom was my hero so if she did it....then so must I. As soon as the written word made sense to me, then I was off and reading. At first I would go through only a book or two in a week, but soon I was to the point that it was nothing for me to read 3-4 books weekly during the school year and usually double that in the summer. At home we had a fully stocked library of garage sale finds and when they were all read....then the library became my dearest friend. Even then I was a people watcher and I loved biographies and autobiographies. I also loved books about pioneers. I was always fascinated by their journey west and how much they both lost and gained from their adventure into the new world headed to the promised land of California.
It was when I was about fifth or sixth grade that I first started critiquing the books I read. If a book kept me holding on and even caused me to lose sleep over it so I could get to the end.....then it was classified as amazing. I would dream of making someone want to read my words like that. If however a book left me wanting more or God forbid bored me along the way.....I would immediately start rewriting it in my head. I would go to sleep thinking about how I would have changed this or that in the story to make it a better read. This was the beginning of my writing desire.....and I didn't even know it. In fact it wasn't until I was in the sixth grade and my teacher said that we were going to keep creative writing journals that I knew I could even put two sentences together. Each day she would encourage us to use our imaginations and write whatever we felt. We could write stories, events in our lives or simply just what we were feeling that day. What I didn't know then was that she was teaching me to open my mind and my heart up to the written word and encouraging me to let it be my guide into the amazing world of.....writing.
I will never forget the freedom I felt writing down all that was inside me. Heck....I didn't even know I had all that inside me. It was amazing. More amazing though was when the teacher read my work and told me that it was really good and that I had potential to be a writer. Those were life changing words as I had really never thought about actually writing. Nor did I realize that in a way.....I had been writing in my head for years.
When the assignment was over....I still found myself with much to say and no real outlet to say it. It was then that I started writing journals. I would fill page after page with thoughts, songs, memories and the start of many stories. I say start because I was not at a place where I myself could start, create, shape, guide and then have a story come to fruition. My ideas were all over the place and I think I was a bit intimidated. I had read Alcott, the Bronte sisters and Poe. Their stories were rich....full and most of all.....complete. They had peaks and valleys which took their readers on a journey. They were full of emotion and they made the reader feel. This was a lot for a young girl to realize and I had no confidence that I could even come close to conveying the journey or the feeling in one of my little half written stories...so I would begin story after story......only to tuck them away in a folder when my mind would shut down and leave me with no direction for the story to proceed.
It wasn't until I was a sophomore in high school that I finally completed my first piece. What changed? I was taking a creative writing class and without a complete story....I could not get a complete grade. This was when I really learned how to write. My teacher (Mr. M) was a man who in his desire to coach sports and teach.....had found the perfect combination of both in this creative writing class. We had somewhere around 100 topics to choose from and about 20 assignments we had to pull from those topics over the course of a semester. These assignments kept us busy and freed him up to work on his sports stats. In his wisdom though.....he was always present to answer questions....and yet he left us to create. He never liked to give much input while you were writing but you always knew he read everything you turned in as his critiques were in depth and usually spot on. This for me....was the perfect way to learn and also to take my writing to the next level. What had once been a release to write in a daily journal......was now a passion to write about anything and everything. My mind had been opened to a whole new world that was only constricted by how far my imagination could take me, and I was rarely without a pen and notebook in hand.....always writing. I wrote in English...and math....and biology. I drove my teachers insane, but if Mr. M passed around one of my stories in the teachers lounge.....they would always smile and say...."Yeah, I think she was writing that in my class." Who knows? I probably was!
In a couple of years I had gone from writing half stories to writing some really good stories...for my age and some even better stories about subjects that I was really too young to know or understand....and yet somehow I managed to make them believable. I think this is when I learned that I actually had a modicum of writing talent....not to mention a whole truck load of imagination. It was also at this time that I learned the art of for lack of a better term....of BSing my way through critical thinking papers and essay questions in other classes. I had honed my creative writing skills and my every day writing was pretty far above average. With this arsenal in my back pocket....I learned quickly that sounding like you knew what you were talking about and using a decent vocabulary along with a somewhat eloquent writing style and a C knowledge could get you an A paper. That even worked fairly well on college papers. I had one teacher call me up after class and hand me back my paper on a subject that I had not even cracked a book on. Being an overworked and understudied college student...I decided to try and wing it and turn my paper in anyway. My grade was an 85% and the teacher let me know in no uncertain terms that she knew I didn't have a clue what I was talking about, but because of the confidence in the way it was written along with the style, grammar and persuasive tone.....she couldn't help but give me a B. She said stylistically it was the best paper she had read in years.....but the content was all BS and she knew it. She also advised that next paper....I really needed to actually study because style would get me no further with her. Lesson learned.
There was a time that I dreamed of being a "real" writer.....as in a writer that could actually make a living by doing what they loved. Then life stepped in and with a husband, kids and two sometimes three jobs, writing went from being a passion to merely an occasional thing. My dream slipped to the back burner and I honestly thought that might be the end. At the time....I was too tired to care.
In the dawn of the new millennium and with technology in almost every home.....I found my writing passion again. Computers made what once a lot of erasing and whiteout suddenly much easier. With the touch of a key you could remove a whole paragraph in a second. A quick mouse click and you could move a paragraph to a completely new location. The computer also made it so that a writer could concentrate on the flow of the words and not have to worry if changes needed to be made or if grammatical and spelling errors were prevalent. With computers.....writers had hit the mother load in ease and performance. Another plus was there was no longer a need for drawers full of notebooks to store my writing. I could store it all right on my computer. It was a miracle for someone like me. Technology also brought us into the new world of social networking. MySpace made it so that we had our own little niche on the internet and we could post stories, pictures and music and others could come by, read and get to know us. Then Facebook introduced us to a fast paced world of a few sentences to tell the world what was going on in that minute. Old friends and new friends were learning more about us than they ever dreamed they wanted to. And then came.....the blog! When I found the blog I was both thrilled and intimidated. I knew it was basically just a journal....not much different than the many hand written journals I had kept for years. There were new twists though. You could add pictures and back grounds. You could design and create and make it your own. The biggest thing though was no longer were your thoughts and words private. No longer could you pick and choose who if anyone could read these extensions of your soul. Now you were a part of the information highway in which bots continually picked up your blog and spread it as far as the internet could go. With the typing in of a certain word or "tag" your blog could be read by just about anyone...anywhere in the world. Thus the intimidation.
It took me a full four years after first establishing my blog to actually use it. I would write something here or there and then it would hit me....."I really don't know who might read this." Then I would lose my writing nerve and hide for a few months.....or years. Finally a very wise person told me that I had a lot of talent and passion where writing was concerned and that he was very ashamed of me for wasting a God given skill. He kindly berated me and my lack of "writing balls" for months....until finally I had enough and started blogging out of irritation. It wasn't long before I realized how much I really did love writing and it was also pretty darn cathartic at a time when my life was heating up and I was living on a constant roller coaster ride. Still.....my posts were hit and miss and a friend of mine who also dabbles with the written word ask me why I didn't blog more. I had a hundred excuses....time, inspiration, etc. She then called BS on me and said "admit it....you're lazy!" Grrrrrrrr I hate direct honesty....especially when it makes me look......lazy. She then challenged me to write everyday for a month. I found the challenge intriguing and terrifying. IF anyone actually took the time to read what I had to say.....I didn't want them to find it laughable (in a bad way) or boring or anything else negative. I wanted to be loved and exulted by all. As you can well imagine, it took a while before I was able to put on the big girl panties and face the challenge head on. It actually happened though, at a time when I had decided that I was fed up with worrying about what anyone else thought...about anything. I pulled myself into a different persona when I began writing. It was one that was a
I blogged about anyone, anything or any thought I had. I blogged daily and I used to try to blog when I first got out of bed. Some of my best blogs came from that morning fog in which my brain had yet to engage. It was also fun to go back later in the day and see what I had actually written. I often surprised myself. It was at this point that my passion for writing came back. My days sped by and my daily load...whatever it might be.....always seemed lighter because my mind was never far from my next blog idea. TV, radio, driving down the road or hanging clothes on the line could often be inspiration. Then when my blogs became consistent.....I started actually getting readers willing to admit they were readers. Not only did they comment on my blogs....but they also commented through email and messages.........and sometimes even in person. People were really reading what I was writing and I was making them feel and keeping them hanging on for my next blog post. I was actually doing what I had dreamed of doing all those years ago. The day I realized this was emotionally changing for me.
Yes...I had also had dreams of being able to support myself with the one true skill/talent I had....but as yet.....that is still just a dream. What I realized though....was as writer, money is secondary to the real writing end game. The real passion and desire comes from having more than just relatives and close friends reading your work. When you know that someone has read your words and cried, laughed or even become angry because you invoked emotion in them.....there is no greater feeling. When someone tells you that they can't wait to read your next blog or that something you said made a difference in their life.......that is when you know that you really are a writer. All the money in the world can't replace the feeling of knowing you did something and did it well and that your words had an effect on someone. That's when you know you have truly arrived!
In case I don't tell you all enough how much I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog......I do. I also appreciate the fb shares and the comments both good and bad. Knowing that I am sharing what I am passionate about with others is truly an amazing thing.
So there you have it. Another glimpse into the person that is me!