Monday, February 1, 2010

What Makes a Writer?

I have been writing for some time. Oh, it takes different forms, sometimes a poem, a journal entry, a short story or just ramblings. I have never thought of myself as a writer though. I have never been published, therefore, I am not a writer. Or so I thought.

Yesterday in the midst of a huge snow storm (well, for the south) our heat stopped working. When the technician arrived, because I am a preferred customer, which I think has nothing to do with the fact that I pay a premium every month but because of how friendly I am, yeah, right. Anyway, as I was paying him we were chatting. He asked what I did for a living. I usually just say that I am a stay at home mom. But yesterday, before I even thought about it, out popped, "I'm a writer." I quickly looked around to see if one of my family members would "out" me, but luckily no one was around! I thought about that moment all day. "I am a writer."

This did not occur just yesterday. I did not wake up and decide I am going to be a writer. This has been a long process. I don't really remember writing much as a youth. Yes, I tried to keep a diary when I was young, but I grew tired myself of reading my daily "doings". It wasn't until I became a Whole Language teacher that I really began to give myself permission to write. I believed strongly in modeling what I wanted my students to do. So, during silent reading, I read my current novel. I would laugh out loud when appropriate, and I would cry when appropriate. Modeling what reading looked and felt like for my students. This was natural and easy for me. So, during Writer's Workshop, I would write. I told my kids they just needed to write. If they couldn't think of a story, just write anything. Many of my journals were filled with nonsense. But occasionally, a story would appear. I never felt shame in sharing my "writing" with my students, again I was modeling that a writer simply means to write. But I must admit and apologize to all my students. I never learned that lesson. I did not hear myself until much later in life.

My husband is a writer. He is an excellent writer. He does not really like commercial greeting cards. He prefers to make his own. Now by this, I do not mean the current fad of "Stamping", or ribbons. He would write his feelings. Instead of looking for a card that said what he wanted to say, he would simply write it himself. (I strongly sense that his frugality had a part in this as well....) Of course, he wanted such cards in return. This was never said out loud. I just sensed this, and the joy and exuberance he showed when he received one confirmed this. So I began writing for my husband. He loved my writing and was always very complimentary. But you know, he was my husband. He is supposed to be complimentary.

Later on I started getting into scrapbooking and even became a consultant with Creative Memories. Again writing came up. A huge part of keeping a scrap book is not just the photos, but the stories to go along with the photos. So I taught this to all my customers. I was in essence holding Writing Workshops again. And as before, I must model this behavior if I expected my "students" to follow.

When we moved to North Carolina, my eyes were opened to many social issues that I hadn't truly "seen" before. The biggest one were the issues facing the LGBT community (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender). Most of my close friends in our church were homosexuals. I became educated on the discriminations that occured on a daily basis for them. And it stirred great emotion in me. I started writing about these injustices in the form of poetry.

One day I decided I wanted to learn to knit. So I bought a book, some yarn and needles, and started knitting. I was having trouble understanding the book, so I googled knitting and found a video tutorial by Heather. I followed a link on the video and found Heather's blog. I had never heard of blogs at that time. I started reading her blog and linking to other blogs she had listed and soon I was hooked. I decided I could do this and it would be a great record of my growth as a knitter. What happened was that I was writing every day, and was beginning to write of life and knitting. I began to get a following on my blog and received many compliments. These were people who didn't even know me. They had no reason to comment, much less compliment.

For my husband's fortieth birthday, he asked for a compilation of all my writings. I was embarrassed by this. I still did not see myself as a writer and this seemed too much like a "book". I was not worthy of that!! But I did it for him.

I went to a local book store and listened to several authors talk about their craft. Inevitably the question is asked about how they write. This is by far the most interesting question to me. I was blown away by the different answers. But the common thread was they just write. They did not have big offices they went to, many of them wrote in the pjs at the kitchen table. Much like me.

At times over the last three years, stories would start in my head and I couldn't think of much else until I wrote them down. Sometimes they were complete stories, but mostly they were just beginnings. I even started a novel. It consumed me. I could actually hear the main character's voice. But then it died away.

I started this blog because I felt such a pressure to write and no outlet. Plus I will admit, I like the feedback. My friend Joy taught me it is okay to just come out and admit it, I like praise! Thanks, Joy! So I have been writing here my thoughts, my stories and I have gotten amazing feedback. My younger brother, Kade wrote, "I had no idea of your writing skills. VERY impressed!!!" He is a man of few words, which makes these words priceless to me. The other day as we were passing kids off at carpool, my friend Debbie called out, "I didn't know you were an author." Those words resounded with me for days. An author.

Jack gave me the book, What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a book of essays. Jack and I love to read books out loud together. But it is hard to do with our schedules. So Jack had been looking for a book for us and found this and the book Outliers by Gladwell as well. They are perfect in that they are essays and we can let several days or weeks pass between readings and it doesn't matter. Plus these articles give us so much to discuss beside the regular mundane issues. I highly recommend this for couples! Okay, back to me! :-)

So the other night Jack read the essay, "Late Bloomers" "Why do we equate genius with precocity?" This essay is fascinating on many levels, but I want to talk about what struck me. The essay begins by telling the story of Ben Fountain. After only three years as a lawyer, he decides to quit his job and write full time. In the first year he published two stories. But then it would be eighteen years until he published his best seller. Eighteen years he worked at his craft. For every story he published, he had thirty rejections. Wow, that is a lot of writing. So, it dawned on me. I have not submitted even one story yet. I have not even written thirty stories yet. Yet.

You have just read my journey. This is what has brought me to this day. It is time to live into my calling. Or dare I say destiny? Gosh this sounds serious. I have made a decision which I wish to make public.

I am a writer.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you!

    I'm glad my knitting video and blog were a small part of your inspiration, too. :)