Half my life ago I, together with my classmates, left our small junior high school and moved on up to the (slightly) bigger high school. It was a Huge Thing, as I’m sure it is with everyone. New teachers, new faces, new environment. You remember. One can get lost in a situation like that, but I got found.
It was math class. My new teacher caught me scribbling something on looseleaf in the back of my binder. He asked me my name, and I told him.
“Oh,” he said, “you’re the prolific writer.”
I was fifteen, and to tell you the truth I had to look up “prolific” later on. In any case, I was pretty sure it didn’t mean “terrible.” So what I heard was “You’re the writer.”
He smiled at me, and in that moment I felt a little ‘click,’ like something had just fallen into place. And he probably had no idea that his words, and his smile, would be forever added to my secret definition of me. I’m the writer.
Apparently, it was a matter of Permanent Record, or he wouldn’t have known. I was pretty sure I knew who had put that in my file. It was my English teacher, the one who believed in me. She was the one who seemed excited when she read my stuff. She was the one who was never surprised or disappointed on the days when I came up empty. She helped me to know this about me too, I’m the writer.
Then came university and my twenties. I learned a lot about the world in those years, but not much about myself. I found my husband, started a business, married, had my son. It was busy, and my writing just…went away. It was still a part of me, of my definition of myself, but I neither thought about it much or actually did any writing. I just figured it would be there when I was ready.
So, after my first baby I started to feel like it was Time. I sat down at my keyboard and I started to write - after all, I’m the writer. I got a horrible shock.
Writing is hard. Writing is frustrating, and I’m not anywhere near as good at it as I thought I’d be. Where’s my gift? Where’s my talent?
I let it go.
I didn’t feed it, and it wandered away. I didn’t exercise it, and it grew weak. I didn’t give it water, and it dried up.
But still, I am the writer. And now, even knowing what that means – knowing it’s not just something about me, not just a talent, an attribute – I choose it. Being a writer requires action, effort. Work.
It’s been almost six years since I made the choice to BE a writer. I don’t see it as something I was born with any more, and I’ve been trying to coax that talent back like a neglected kitten hiding under the sofa. I don’t know if I’ll ever realize the potential that my teacher saw, but still I take heart in remembering her, and her faith in me. And now that I’ve grown enough to know that it isn’t free, I’m willing to work at it. I’m willing to fail and learn and try again.
Because I’m the writer.