My four year old loves to write. She will sit with a notebook and pen quietly scratching away in a language that is half letters/half symbols, and I wonder if she is mimicking me through example or DNA. When I was her age my stories were more of the performance art variety, told to invisible audiences via dolls or dance. Although I loved books, it hadn’t occurred to me that my stories could be written down for others to read.
I know I have written about this before, but my first written story was about pirates. Sister Rita, a tiny prune-faced thing who was barely taller than the shortest fourth grader and painted her meticulously filed nails bright colors that I am sure the Pope would have disapproved of, took the red pen that all teachers must have been issued with their licenses back then and buried my artistic endeavor under editing marks she never taught us the meaning of. If I had not been born a writer that might have been the end of my authoring days but for the fact that Sister aside, people liked to read what I wrote.
I began to write obsessively in the fifth grade. Writing filled up the days while I was waiting for the other kids to “get it” so we could move on and was a way for me to look productive while I hid from the subjects that bored or perplexed me.
By high school, when the education process had progressed from the merely tedious to a test of my endurance, the idea that I could build a life and even make a living from writing was starting to take hold and was probably one of the bigger reasons I ended up in college. I thought, incorrectly as it turned out, that I could learn how to be a writer there.
University is a piss poor place to learn about writing much less become an author. Long story short, I became an English teacher instead. An English teacher who knew less than zero about grammar and couldn’t spell.
It was teaching grammar to thirteen year olds (who had no idea I was a mere chapter ahead of them every day) that taught me to love the language as much as I loved to see myself think on paper. But I still wasn’t a writer.
Ironically, it was graduate school that made me focus on my writing again. By treating it as a craft, I had many opportunities to test my abilities in an impartial setting . That and watching someone I loved beyond logic die right in front of me for months and years finally tipped the scales. I guess that is why the Palahnuik quote jumped off the page at me. I became a teacher only partly because I loved it. The other reason had to do with losing my confidence in myself and my gift and succumbing to the idea that one’s life work is about security not passion.
I began to blog about six months or so after my husband, Will, died. It was much the same as the writing that I had done as a teenager. Just thinking on “paper” but now I was very conscious of the process and the idea of writing as a life began to flicker.
It was Rob who fanned the flames again and continues to do so. I think he will understand the quote, and the photo as well.
I envy those who can do what they love from the beginning.