On Being A Writer

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.

One thought on “On Being A Writer

  1. tabeasley

    This gave me ALL the warm feels. And I LOVED STONE SOUP! Totally forgot about it! Omg what a fun memory. I’m so glad to be a brave failure with you. And learn and grow in this art alongside. I love you!

    Liked by 1 person

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