What makes me a writer?
When I was eight years old, my third grade teacher submitted one of my class assignments to the local paper for publication. It was a story about a girl, a corn husk doll, and the best Christmas ever (I borrowed heavily from the work of Laura Ingalls Wilder, my favorite author at the time). I was so proud when I saw the story in the newspaper. I was a writer.
Writing came easily to me. I wrote stories and poems and plays. I wrote a letter to my elementary school principal about a musical version of Walt Disney’s “Babes In Toyland” that I wanted to produce, starring teachers and students (he brought my letter to school and personally thanked me for writing it; what an amazing guy). I read voraciously and modeled my work after the authors of my childhood: Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary. I even tried my hand at a tragic novel about teen love that ends in death, but I was only able to write the opening two pages and the last chapter after the boyfriend dies of a horrible unnamed disease. That was my first glimpse into the reality that writing is hard work.
As with many budding writers and readers, school began to suck the joy out of writing for me. In high school and then in college, I wrote only when it was required of me for a grade. When school was over, I stopped writing and focused my energy on my career and my family. I didn’t even keep a journal, although I tried several times. Writing was work, and I already had enough to do.
Two years ago, I told a friend that I believe I’m a writer. She dared me to write something and email it to her, and I did. She emailed me back and told me that yes, I am a writer. I wrote more and emailed her more and eventually I got the opportunity to write posts for a couple of blogs. My work is published again, this time online instead of in the local newspaper, but the thrill is the same. I am a writer.
But I don’t write regularly, or often, and it’s beginning to wear on me. I need to write. I need somewhere to put the ideas bouncing around my head, and I need a structure that encourages me to do it. That is the purpose of this blog: it is a place for me to write consistently and share my writing with others. I promised myself in this post that I would commit to a blog, and I’m following through with it.
It’s one of the most terrifying things I have ever done, because I am deeply invested in what other people think of me. However, if I don’t do it; if I’m too afraid to even blog once a week for fear of what people will think of me and my writing, then my dream of being a writer will die, and I will have to let it go. If I’m not willing to put in the time or the effort to blog regularly, then there is no way in hell that I will be able to write anything of any substance in the future.
This reality was driven home for me as I read Dani Shapiro’s nuanced memoir Devotion. Shapiro writes about cleaning out her mother’s New York apartment after her death, and finding stacks of notebooks and pens that her mother purchased every year with the intention of writing something spectacular. While her daughter was writing and publishing books, Shapiro’s mother was caught up in the dream of becoming a writer. I was instantly reminded of all the notebooks and pens I’ve purchased over the years, thinking “This is it. This is when I become a writer.” The pen and the notebook don’t make me a writer. This blog doesn’t make me a writer. Writing makes me a writer.
I don’t want to be the person who dreams big but never takes action. I don’t want my daughter to someday find stacks of empty notebooks that were never filled. I want to write. I am a writer.