This will be a ramble that is mainly about me trying to remind myself that I am a writer.
How is it that we can deny who we are for such a long time? How is it that people who love us can actually assist in that denial? Is it a mid-life crises when you are turning thirty-nine and you see that most of your twenties and a lot of your thirties were spent in missteps and the consequences thereof? What about when you look at the world and realize that at least part of the reason for those missteps was, of all things, because you’re part of that group known as GenX, and you were, as ever, stuck between generations and facing limited opportunities?
I’m a writer. I should have figured that out as quite a young child. It should never have been a mystery at all. Massive amounts of evidence piled up over the years pointing to this truth and yet the acceptance of that identity only happened within the last six to eight years of my life.
1. My mother is a pragmatic and somewhat suspicious person. She’s not sentimental at all, either, and when it came to keeping items from my childhood for nostalgic purposes, she literally collected only four items. Two of which were the first stories I ever wrote. Clearly some part of her recognized that writing was something that was intrinsic to me.
2. In third grade, I won a school-wide essay contest with a little piece I wrote in half an hour after school when my English teacher held me after class and insisted I participate because the quality of my writing was impressive to her.
3. In fifth grade, I won a school-wide poetry contest rather handily, as well.
4. Somewhere in the dark mess of my elementary school years–which were a dark and harrowing time in my life, by the way, because of the dyscalculia–I told my mother that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. She told me that was a good hobby but that no one made enough money to live on as a writer, so I should be something else instead. I believed her. I had no idea what I would be when I grew up, but I knew it wasn’t going to be a writer, because my mom had told me it wasn’t possible. Moms are always right, you know?
5. I wrote my first book in sixth grade. It was about an orphan who lived in an attic room with secret tunnels in the walls. I’m pretty sure it was liberally inspired by Emily of New Moon, Mandie & the Secret Tunnel, and some other book that I can’t remember the title of. I wrote hundreds of pages of it. My mother typed it up for me.
6. By high school, I’d decided to be a psychologist. I thought I could help people and, besides, I’d hear a lot of interesting stories. I’d given up the idea of writing novels.
7. I hadn’t given up writing poetry, though, but was too shy to publish it in the school literary magazine with my name attached, so I published it as Anonymous. I was the only one to do so. I don’t think I was fooling anyone, since the editors of the literary magazine approached me and told me my work was the best in the magazine, and the principal of the school stood up during a school assembly, praised the works by Anonymous in the school magazine, and said, “I hope that whoever wrote these works will continue to write because they have a gift and should never forget that.
I never write poetry now. I have no idea if I even could. I doubt it. My brain doesn’t seem to run in those ways.
8. I didn’t study Creative Writing in college. I studied Psychology. Though my English Literature professors and many of my Psych professors would pull me aside and say that my essays were so creative and so well done that I should consider writing as a career. I told them I wasn’t interested in writing.
9. Things happened as they happened, and I graduated college and took up a career in…wait for it…no, really wait for it….finance. Yes, really. I know, right? What happened to Psychology? It’s a very long story that mainly involves being young, stupid, afraid, and being young, stupid, and in love, and being insecure, and thinking that I had to live my life in a certain way or else I’d never have the things that I was supposed to have, the things I’d been told my parents I should have, the things they’d led me to believe meant I’d been successful. I threw myself into finance like an escaped prisoner throws themselves into evading the authorities. I was on the run from my real self and I couldn’t afford to be caught!
10. A client of mine took a shine to me and asked me to go out to lunch with her. As we ate, I told her about a wedding I’d attended recently. It’d been in an old farmhouse and the bride wore jasmine in her hair. After I’d finished describing the night, my client took hold of my hand, looked at me intently and said, “Listen to me, this is important. You need to be a writer. Do you understand?” I laughed and said I did, but, of course, by that point in my life, I was married, with a house, and a mortgage, and wanted to have a baby. Writing wasn’t an option for me.
11. At my 10 year high school reunion, I sat down next to an old friend I hadn’t seen since graduation. I said, “You’ll never guess what I do for a living.” Her eyes lit up and she took my hand, saying with complete certainty, “You’re a writer!” I laughed and said, “Well, no. That would probably make a lot more sense than what I actually do.” When I told her that I was in finance, she visibly wilted and looked completely disappointed in me. It wasn’t because of the nature of my work, after all she was in finance, too. It was because it was wrong for me and she knew it. She knew what my client knew, what the principal had known, what my mother had instinctively known when I was a child. I was a writer. Being something else was wrong and rather stupid.
12. By this time I’d found fandom. My school of writing. I’m sure I could learn a lot from some creative writing classes, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. I learned everything I currently know about writing from fandom. It held my hand and taught me lessons and banged my head against the wall for doing it wrong. I still do it wrong, but I work to get better. That’s something.
At this point in my life, I’m a writer. I look back at all these instances (and many more I didn’t mention) of the world screaming in my face YOU ARE A WRITER and how hard I didn’t listen. I would like to say that I think I missed out on opportunities by not being a writer sooner. But I’m not sure that I did. The publishing world even ten years ago was a different place altogether. Getting the kind of thing I want to write published was unheard of? Frankly, I still write stuff that people won’t want to publish. The difference is that with self-publishing tools, I can still put my books out there, and I can write what I want to write.
I still work in finance, though as an assistant. I have the mortgage, the kid, the husband, and I’m happy. I still wake up every morning and wish that I was a full-time writer. I still resent the hours I spend sitting behind a desk not doing what I made to do. (Here’s the thing: I was made to write, whether I’m good at it or not? Well, that’s another question.)
The problems with it all lately is:
1) I’m turning 39, which isn’t a big deal, but it is. I’m starting to feel the first press of walls closing in, of limitations of what I can reasonably expect to do and accomplish. This is complicated by my health issues which leave me with a sense that I really could keel over any minute. I feel a lot of pressure to finally make this writing thing fly.
2) To make the writing thing fly, you have to have finished products. To have finished products you have to have time to write them. To have time to write them….well, we see where this is going.
So, I do the best I can. But in some ways I feel like I came through at the wrong time. I was just about twenty years too early to take full advantage of the technology we have today. But where does that sort of thought get me? This entire post has been a shit-storm of first world problems, now that I look it over. I’ve got a good life. Better than most. Why all the whining, Leta? Get it together, girl.
I suppose I just needed to get this out there. To ask myself, why did you ignore that call for so long? To remind myself, see this was always part of you, the world was always telling you that this is who you are. It’s going to take a long time, but don’t give up. Move on. Press forward. Don’t do something stupid, like psychology or finance, because you’re afraid you’re wrong and wasting your time. The only way to waste your time is to not write and to not publish. So go on. Those people who told you that you were a writer weren’t just blowing smoke up your ass. They had no reason to say those things. So, yes, Leta…you’re a writer. Let’s write something.