I came across this quote in a Julia Cameron book a few years ago. A brilliant statement of the obvious, don’t you think? You can make your own statement to fit your own life by adding one of your roles and the corresponding verb. Voila!
Although the statement is obvious, I haven’t always known I should write, if only for my own benefit. And when I suspected that writing should take center stage, I did everything except keep my behind in a chair.
The writing path started out in the fifth grade with a silly diddy meant to entertain my friends and teacher. Perhaps it did, although looking at the paper about 40 years later I can only wonder. I fooled around with writing in junior high and high school by working on yearbooks and any other opportunity to put words before people in an effort to entertain them.
During high school, it was other students whose essays and themes and speeches were chosen, a couple of go-to kids upon which golden crowns and glass slippers rested and the remainder of the class was but servants to their greatness. In other words, it never occurred to me that I could or should write, unless it was an academic requirement. It was the Dixies and Willas and Janices who were the stars on the wrote show (feel free to laugh here).
Early in my college career, all in the same semester, I had the good fortune to encounter three professors who in one way or another directed me to writing. The first was an English professor who was formal and reserved. For some reason I had to meet with him and during the half hour or so, he offered his assessment of my writing and encouraged me to consider developing the ability. He praised my papers. He must be wrong? He hadn’t read anything by Dixie, Willa or Janice. He’d change his mind if he had. The second professor taught U.S. history and wrote surprising responses to my papers that, at the time, seemed almost insincere. I didn’t really think he was accurately assessing my writing achievement. The third professor, the one who had the most influence, not only encouraged my writing and the experience I gained at the daily newspaper, he once told me to forget about the poor grade I was getting in Italian (he was the department head) because I was better served through working at the paper. That he managed to influence my instructor to give me a slightly better grade didn’t hurt.
My friends and peers at the newspaper were far better writers. They still are. I learned a lot from them.
With a spanking new degree from Purdue, I set out into the wider world, primarily using writing as the foundational skill for a career in public relations. Early on I wrote about herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, irrigation, pest control, farming practices, golf course management and anything else needed to help clients or employer communicate about their products, striving to do so in a way that engaged customers and entertained others in the process. More or less, I’ve built a life around words, often forming the right ones for others to use.
It’s been a long time coming, this writing primarily to tell the stories that are important to me or integral to my life.
There was often a reason for not doing this sort of writing. Usually valid considerations at that. Excuses I told myself: I didn’t have time. I don’t know what to write about (yeah, I know, don’t end a sentence with a preposition). I don’t have a perfect life with all the parts in perfect place. Once everything is perfect, then I’ll be able to write. Someday.
For awhile I have had an inner nudge to get to work on a long list of writing projects. Good progress has been made on two book manuscripts. Other projects are underway. Yet, I argue with the inner imperative to write because life is far from perfect and few parts are in place. “As soon as ….” Or, “When I’m all settled again ….” Or, “If ….”
Smack in the middle of a long limbo, that inner nudge persists to write as often as possible, no excuses. I have none of the things I’ve believed were needed to write. Not a room of my own, to borrow from Viriginia Woolf, not even the basics. Yet, each day it’s impossible to find peace until I write something. Currently the only tools available to practice my craft are a BlackBerry, notebook from Target, and pens from a hotel. I’ve been writing under large shade trees at Tomahawk Creek Park, about the only place for shade in humid air with temperatures in the mid-90s or higher. I write from the driver’s seat, with Timothy the cat in the back.
Turns out I didn’t need all those things I needed. Didn’t need the just-so desk and chair and office, or the right sort of computer, or long stretches of time at a lakeside cottage. All I needed? To just do it.
Writers write. And when I write, I’m keeping my part of the deal.