Saturday, September 30, 2006

I'm the Writer

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.


Anonymous said...

Dear Cindy,

You are definitely the writer! This post is evidence, particularly your last three sentences.

'Being the writer' demands reciprocity. To be good at it, and to keep getting better, we have to mature past the stage of reliance on giftedness alone, and get invested in the craft.

Your gift is still's just sitting in its car seat in the back, enjoying the view, while you do the grown-up thing up front. Be content with its presence, but keep your focus on your skills, and persist! (Persistence is highly underrated.){g}

And remember, they say it's the journey that counts, not the destination. So enjoy!


Cindy said...

Dear Mrs. Mitty:

Thank you!

There are so many days lately that I just don't feel like it, tired from Baby. But I try anyway, and it's working. Slowly. (G)

Renée (R.E.) Chambliss said...

I think it's also that the older we get, the more fearful, because we understand the risks better. When you're young and full of potential and your whole life is ahead of you it's much easier to be optimistic about the future. After you've lived some, and been knocked about some, you know more about what could go wrong. At least that's the case for me! ;o)

You are a writer and knowing that about yourself is huge. The fact that it's harder now, probably means you care more and are no longer taking it for granted. There's nothing wrong with that!

Cindy said...

Hi Renee!

Yeah, I think you're right. So easy to take things for granted, less so these days. 30 did that for me. (What do you mean, I'm not going to live forever???) (S)

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,
I finally found your blog! Whew! I've been looking and not finding and thinking I was totally crazy because you have a Blogger profile, but no blog. But here it is!


I had a couple of teachers who believed in me. The first was my grade eight language arts teacher. There was a book-making enrichment program that only the enrichment kids were allowed to go on, but I *begged* to go, and she let me! I was totally disappointed. It turned out to be some poetry workshop and our poems were put into a construction paper book and we took home pressed flower bookmarks. Yippee. I wanted to write books! But. When the music teacher wanted to write a musical from scratch, my L.A. teacher picked me to be on the writing team. And when the rest of the team went on to performing roles or set building, I was the lowly writer to make all the changes. And there were plenty. It was my first experience with learning that work goes into writing. It was also my first and only collaboration experience. *wry g*

I identified with so much of your story. I ignored my writing (especially after I didn't win an Anne of Green Gables poetry contest that my parents thought I was sure to win) until after my first born was two. So much disappointment. So much failure. So much lost time. But I did it get back to it and it made me happy.

I want you to know that you'll find it again.

Finding writing time gets easier as the kids get older. Not only do you get more sleep, but they're able to do stuff for themselves. Don't feel guilty for writing in front of them or not taking the time to teach them to bake muffins. If writing makes you happy, they'll see a mom who is happy and that is the best gift you can ever give them.

Cindy said...

Hi Sara!

Thanks so much for the encouragement, it was well timed.

Something I was reading on your blog had stuck in my head, about the lives of novels and when to move on. I'm going to make a change. I'm working on a new plan, and I'm really excited. I'm going to blog about it when I get time!

Anonymous said...

"I'm working on a new plan, and I'm really excited. I'm going to blog about it when I get time!"

Well, gee, that's a hook if I ever saw one. ;)

::staying tuned::