I remember the first time I knew I was a writer. I was 8 and on a long car ride home late at night. I laid in the back floorboard of my parents’ orange pinto station wagon so my 5 year old brother could sleep in the back seat. There were no seat belt laws. It was 1979, and I’m not sure there were even seat belts at all. I wanted something to occupy my mind, so I told myself a story. It was the perfect story for me, told just how I wanted it to be told. I thought it was the best story I’d ever known. Never mind that it was quite similar to another of my favorite stories about an old doll found by a little girl in a dusty attic (ahem, Raggedy Ann). I told it even better. And so, since my grandmother was a writer, I knew she’d help me. I wrote it all out by hand, and she typed it on her electric typewriter. Four and a half glorious typewritten pages, if I remember correctly. She showed me how she put my name and the page number in the corner of each page. She taught me about self-addressed stamped envelopes. She suggested I send it to a children’s magazine, Stone Soup. And so I did. I was rejected. I don’t remember being crushed because my grandmother thought my story was good. But I didn’t do it again. I kept writing, but I didn’t try publishing.
Still, I’ve identified myself as a writer since that time. I wrote for pleasure and gladly for assignments throughout school. I became an English major in college so I could do my favorite things: read and write. And then I went on to teach writing and literature to kids in school and later to my own children and their friends while homeschooling.
Now I am 47, and I realize I’ve studied writing and read books about writing and taught writing and thought about, and dreamed about writing more than I’ve written. I know all the reasons: the fear, the lack of discipline, the way I end up putting everything else before writing because it’s an extension of myself, and I have issues with self-care.
Knowing all that changed nothing. But then a friend, also a writer, asked me to be a “brave failure” with her and start writing. That was the language I needed. There’s nothing like another quaking soul being brave to inspire courage. So here I am, giving myself to writing practice, for real. It’s bound to be messy and weak and drafty. But brave failure is so much better than playing it safe.