Write it and they will come.
Once upon a time, in a world far away, a long time ago, I wrote stories. My imagination was on fire and I wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote. When I wasn’t writing, I was imagining what I was going to write. And in between, I read. I read and read.
I was watching This Is Us today and two of the Pearson kiddos arrived at the Library with their mom Rebecca. (The writing in THAT show! But that is another post) They were there to get information for anniversary celebration they were planning for their parents. I immediately perked up. Library! What? Oh, heck yes, it all came flooding back. During my childhood, the library was one of my favorite places. The smell of the books! As I think about it, the Library represented freedom for me, it was a place where I could choose what information I wanted to consume. I read mostly fiction. I was reading at a pretty mature level at a pretty young age. I had an affinity for big, sweeping, family centric historical dramas. Stories set in locations that were characters themselves. Books were and still are very much an escape for me. I lost myself in the characters and the stories. The library was the chamber that held all the world’s secrets.
The library was also something I did with my Mom. I’m pretty sure it was an escape for her too. We must not have had a library convenient to us when I was really little because the first library I remember visiting with my Mom was the mobile library my Mother called the “bookmobile”. I remember stepping up into that bus and the feeling that this was something special my Mom was sharing with me. Her love of stories. I immediately took to it and enjoyed every single book my Mom brought home for me. I thought the lady who worked in the van had to be one of the smartest people on the planet. From the beginning, I was hooked.
One library stands out and I spent the most time in it. During late elementary school and middle school. It was a pretty, Classic Revival style building that sat in the middle of our city park in the middle of our small, sleepy farming town. It was built between 1907 and 1908 with a $10,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation. It is one of only 2,509 Carnegie libraries built between 1883 and 1929. I didn’t know it at the time. I only knew that it was one of the oldest buildings that I had ever been in, which made it exciting from a historical fiction lover’s point of view. And, it contained the answers to all life’s mysteries. There was nothing quite like spending hours, pouring over all the options and finally selecting the ones that were heading home. Watching the librarian stamp the card on the inside of the book was a thrill. The library was a pretty comfortable place for me and my imagination. I helped out in all my school libraries and even hung out in the library, in between classes, every chance I had when I went to community college. Always a safe harbor. I preferred it to being in class.
During this time, I was still creatively writing. I was a prolific creative writer. I won awards and recognition from teachers for my writing. I was pretty confident I was a great writer. At the end of junior high school, the teachers got together and did a kind of prediction of what career each student would pursue when they “grew up”. My long-term memory can be a bit fuzzy, but not on this. My teachers agreed that I would be a writer. A journalist for the NY Times to be specific. I was so pleased! I think they knew. They saw pure and unspoiled imagination, love of words and an insatiable need to learn everything I could, and they called it! I didn’t end up a journalist. And unfortunately, I eventually stopped writing altogether.
What happened? High school is a big factor. The classwork I had in high school didn’t call for much in the way of creative writing so I was not prompted in that arena. Boys, social life, other hobbies took over. I was busy, I was happy but I wasn’t writing. I still read a lot, pretty much whenever I was home and it was still a fantastic escape. I just wasn’t writing. I think, if I thought about it at all, I thought that the writing I did was a childhood pursuit, not a serious life ambition. I didn’t make the connection that I could be an author. Authors were artists of the highest caliber. Way too lofty an ambition for me. Don’t get me wrong, I had no problem with ambition, I was sure I would be successful. As a business woman. Or a lawyer, if I could make it through the school. I was also on the debate team and loved to argue a point. I just never made the connection that I could choose art as a vocation.
There is also the influence or more accurately, lack of influence of my parents. By this point in our lives, my Mom was pretty busy just holding the family together with my Step-Dad as they struggled financially to keep their heads above water. Emotionally things were pretty turbulent. My Dad was living out of the country. So as parents go, collectively they weren’t really plugged into us kids enough to know what to encourage or not. The idea that there might be a budding artist in the midst would absolutely never have occurred to any of us. Apparently, not even to me.
Rather than head off to college I chose to work and attend community college. I loved working. I had an office job and loved the business world. I didn’t like the college part half as much as I liked working. Simply put, I was learning more working then at school. Anyway, as an avid reader and sometime writer, I fancied myself pretty good in the essay department and I confidently turned in my first essay in my college English class. As it turns out my teacher didn’t agree. It was so extraordinary, extraordinarily bad, I was called into the teacher’s office. I had never seen a paper with so much red marks on it. He hated everything. The subject and my writing. To say I was devastated is not strong enough. I must have still fancied being a writer. Deep inside, it was still there. The desire to be a story-teller was strong enough that this critique of an essay on the Iran-Contra scandal crushed me. I actually dropped out of school and didn’t write another thing. For a very, very, long time.
There is one person in my life who did not let this dream die even when I ignored it. She believed in my talent and prodded me gently over the years. My sister knew that I am a story teller. She believed in my ability even when I did not. Because she didn’t let it go, it was still there for me to pick up and dust off when I was ready. Isn’t that lovely?
I still struggle with two things. The first is that I have something to say that will interest someone other than myself. I am constantly composing in my head. The problem is that there is such a large quantity that by the time I sit down to write, sometimes I just can’t gather it into one coherent piece. I am fortunate to have this writer’s blog as a platform for organizing my musings. The second is that I know that I am technically challenged in the grammar department. What I’ve realized is that we all have gremlins surrounding the things we do that really matter to us. The gremlins aren’t going anywhere but I need to write anyway and it is OK. We all need to do that brave, courageous thing that makes our hearts soar despite the gremlins.
So, I will keep writing. As Julia Cameron, author, playwright and screen play writer advises in her program for blocked artists, The Artist’s Way, I tell myself, “God, I’ll take care of the quantity and you take care of the quality”. Right now, I am focused on just following my intuition and creating what matters to me and what I hope resonates with others. Writing about what I am learning and sharing it is brings me an artist’s joy. As is the case in human nature, I’m also vulnerable around wanting to be accepted. Of course I’d love for folks to read my writing and take something good from it, be entertained and inspired. Sometimes I get discouraged and I become a blocked writer when I worry about this. And then, just like that, I watch an episode of This Is Us, see a library, cry a little and the words come again. Words are my fuel and my joy, so after all these years it is just such a blessing to be writing again. I am so lucky the universe conspired to give me the platform and the words. I am having such a great time writing about all kinds of things. Yes, I am a writer. I am a story teller. I am a creator. I am an artist. And, I’m going to keep writing, secure in the knowledge that if I write it, they will come. Someone will be here to read it. Now isn’t that lovely? Do you have any resurrected “once upon a time” stories? Any “write it and they will come” stories? I’d love to hear about them! As always, thank you for being here. Namaste my loves.