I’m certain you all probably think I have a journalism degree from Columbia given my supernal and enthralling prose you read on this blog. However, I’m here to burst your preconceived bubble on this fact. My only writing accomplishment was winning my first grade creative writing contest. I wrote a story about a “bear tree.” I even did my own illustrations. It was about a tree in an enchanted forest that produced honey (Bees? We don’t need no stinkin’ bees!). Bears from all around would come to the tree to eat the honey and end up getting stuck to it (you know, because honey is sticky). It sounds like a good beginning to a Grimm’s fairy tale. If I would’ve thrown some humans in the story somewhere, maybe a troll or two, an entranced honey pot (don’t even go there), it probably would’ve been more entertaining. I don’t think I expounded on what happened to the bears once they were stuck. Did they die like mice on those (absolutely horrid) sticky pads you put out to catch them? I always did have a sense of the macabre even at the magical age of six. Or did they just eat their way from being stuck and go on to catch little fish with their big paws in the nearby little stream, occasionally finding a cornucopian dumpster in a highly populated area, and living happily ever after? I don’t know. A first grader’s imagination is pretty broad, but maybe I just wasn’t thinking that far ahead or (and I prefer to think I was thinking along these lines) maybe I did it intentionally just to create a cliffhanger, thereby paving the road for the sequel.
I’ve kept journals over the course of my life, more in adulthood than when I was a kid. I didn’t dare memorialize any of my thoughts in any tangible form for fear my parents would find them and have me either sent to a church-oriented school so they could guilt and shame me into being a proper Christian or have Brother Holier Than Thou, the Baptist preacher, “talk” to me so I could confess my sins and be forgiven so I wouldn’t burn in hell (kind of like a Baptist exorcism). As a 17 year-old, I was entirely too busy hiding joints in my closet and constantly moving my birth control around so my parents wouldn’t find either to have to worry about keeping yet even more contraband under wraps. (I will point out that even as a rebellious youth, I was responsible enough to realize the necessity of birth control at 17. I don’t have a defense for the drugs. Do I really need one?) I really wished I would’ve kept a journal during my teens without living in fear that someone who could inflict pain and punishment on me might find it. I might could read back on some of those entries written so far in the past and found answers for some of the questions I have now in the present.
So next week, I will further my quest in the ways of the scrivener. I am beginning an eight-week writing class at one of the universities here in New Orleans. It’s just once a week for two hours, and I hope to learn the what, when, why, where and who’s of writing. And then there’s the how — how to write? It’s more than just typing words onto a screen. I think there’s a bit of crafting involved.
Right now, I do not write everyday. In order to hone your writing talent, it needs to be something you do daily, like learning a musical instrument. Practice. Practice. I must make the time. I’m hoping this class will challenge me to create the time to write. I’m also hoping that I will learn how to write about topics to which I feel ambivalent and not just issues that are near to my heart. If I wrote only about those things I find interesting and worthy, that certainly narrows my topic field to food (in general), dining out, the occasional idiocy of the world, yoga, fried chicken and bacon (specifically).
In my perfect world, someone one day will actually pay me to write something. This is not a fantasy; this is more like a goal. I never aspired to spend my life working for attorneys. I never daydreamed about the thrill of filing, pushing paper, summarizing depositions, making file labels, or being a paralegal, even though I went through two years of night school for a certificate qualifying me as such. As I’ve been doing this kind of work for 20-something years now, I can say that if I must be in this occupation, the firm I presently work for is not a bad place to be. I work for low-maintenance, kind, respectful attorneys. I stay because of the benefits and the salary (unfortunately not commensurate with my experience … whose is?). However, this is not what I was meant to do. It brings me no personal satisfaction other than knowing I do a great job and that my employers are pleased with my work. I am most envious of people who get to do what they love and get paid for it! How lucky are they? I wish to add to my existing happiness by creating a career I love and am passionate about. I want to call myself a writer and not just a nine-to-five drone. There’s a self-confidence that comes with proudly stating that you work at your passion, and not just to yourself but to others who, upon meeting you for the first time, ask the conversational standard, “So what do you do?” When I tell them, they smile and either make the old, tired joke about sub-human lawyers (I’m not saying it’s untrue) or just smile and nod and say, “Oh” with a look that seems to reflect that they really don’t have a response. I’m not blaming them. Who wants to hear about the mundane details of pushing paper all day. I would just like to have that satisfaction of announcing my profession as a writer and feeling proud and lucky that I do what I do not because I need a benefits package but because I love it and my life is enriched beyond measure because of it. And let me just say that I know some very excellent legal assistants who are very happy and beyond capable doing what they do. This is their passion and they love it. What I’m saying is that it’s not mine and I want to change this.
The problem with change is resistance. We get ourselves in such a rut with our routine thinking and reactions that we find it daunting to even think about how to make a change. Sometimes it’s the fear of failure that keeps us on our same path. Sometimes it’s the fear of succeeding that makes us wonder what we would do if we actually did jump off the path and onto another. Scary. And isn’t it always true that when you finally make a decision (even if it’s just a baby step on your road to change) that something happens that makes you rethink your plan. Health issues, financial problems, family drama, et cetera.
I know that in order to succeed I need to surround myself with people who are my cheerleaders, who push and challenge and offer tons of encouragement. I’ve lacked this encouragement until now. I’ve never felt that someone truly believed in me and wanted to see me succeed beyond either of our wildest dreams and would hold my hand as I jumped into change. I am grateful for My Love. He knows the value of having a career doing what you love because he achieved that. He doesn’t just offer words of encouragement, he offers actual encouragement by suggesting solutions to this resistance and showing me what I can do instead of focusing on what I cannot. We talk about why I don’t think I could ever be a writer. He tells me why he thinks I absolutely can and should. We talk about why I don’t make the time to write every day. He suggests ways I might carve out time. Support is invaluable in change and I am grateful I have it now.
I’m looking forward to this writing class and hope it it is a stepping stone to lead me in a new direction!