I wrote poems when I was a child. I remember one that was pretty straight forward. It was about my life plan. I wanted children and then I wanted to write. At least that was the gist.
When I mentioned this at breakfast the other day my husband said, ‘Be careful what you wish for, they say, because you just might get it’, but then he smiled because he must have wished for a sexy wife and a happy home with delightful children.
Then I had an epiphany. I had to stop and think; place my index finger on my lips and frown. All the whirring sounds of breakfast, a child asking where her brush was, a cheap dishwasher taking off like a jet engine, faded away and my mind focused on one point: had I been pursuing this plan all along? Was I living out a lifeline that I had set up when I was ten years old? I had to shake my head. I had to smile.
What really took me by surprise was that I have spent much of my life quietly thinking that I had failed; that I had not lived my dream life. I was critical of myself for not having ‘become a writer”. What I didn’t realize was that I was a writer, and always had been. My own child self had given me plenty of time to find a good man and create beautiful children and write and think all along the way.
I have always been writing, thinking about writing, reading, and writing some more. I wrote for myself, I wrote for academics, I wrote for the free ranging feminist community. I wrote on film, art, theater, computer technology, medical topics and local politics and events. I wrote about everything and anything as a freelance journalist. I wrote cover stories on everything from chocolate to female impersonators.
I have never stopped writing and one of the classic photos my kids took of me is of the back of my head, my hair casually clipped up, typing away at the computer. I had a Mom just like that – typing, frowning, placing her finger in her upper lip while she was thinking. We were trained to wait til she had finished her thought before interrupting.
And like all writers I also wrote poetry and stories. Files, folders and black journals full of emotions and ideas formed into words. It does not matter if anyone noticed. I have been following that plan like a blueprint. I do have the happy home that I imagined. It is becoming more possible to do more writing as they grow older.
Later that same day while I was wandering aimlessly around Facebook I saw the image of a donkey tied to a plastic chair and under it was written, ‘Sometimes the obstacles you imagine are not as big as you thought’. I think I heard a chorus of hallelujah in my brain. Second level to the epiphany!
The next day I stared writing a novel. I jumped in with no plan and no particular structure. I wrote and I wrote and at about 10,000 words (thank you Nanowrimo for getting me going) I re- thought the main character and introduced another character and kept going. At about 30,000 words I knew who I was writing about, why I was writing and how it was going to end.
I have long dreamed of this moment. I am ecstatically happy and not in a temporary way in which you expect that sad drop of disappointment later. I can’t be disappointed about results or expectations because I am entirely happy about recognizing who I am and acting on it. I have acknowledged my childhood plan.
Characters and scenes from short stories that I wrote long ago are queuing up. Some of them want to be in this novel, some of them want their own novel. I am enjoying the big canvas; I am taking my time building characters and scenes. I am having fun doing it and I know someone else will have fun reading it.
I am confident about my created world. It reminds me of the process of my rug hooking, a hobby I began last winter when I was homeschooling my youngest. I enjoy the process; the visual concept, the gathering of the wool, the painting in colors and textures. While I am pulling strips of hand cut wool up through the holes of the burlap my mind relaxes and indulges in day dreaming. I listen to music and I think about things. Halfway through one rug I have an idea for the next one.
And this is how I feel about my stories now. Working in an entirely different medium helped bring about this commitment to the novel. Just as I always finished every rug I began, even when I had thought of an even better idea for the next one, I know I have to finish this story before I begin the next one.
It is incredibly satisfying to recognize that all my earlier writing is not wasted. It had its place in the forming of my characters and visions. I don’t need those dusty files anymore because the characters have burst out of their tight little short story forms and lunged forth into characters who want more space to develop. Poems, images, and dreams are becoming living thoughts in my fictional characters.
When I was a child I wrote because I loved to and that spirit is returning. Writing is my friend. I am writing because I want to. Sometimes it does take discipline to sit down and write but it is work I was meant to do.