The Day I Decided to Write

It’s what I am, so why isn’t it what I do?

I consider myself to be many things. I am a person, a woman, a friend, a sister, a colleague, a shower singer, a geek, a slob, a lover of art, a reader, a cat fancier, a poet at heart, a believer, a skeptic, an optimist, a depressive, a disorganized mess (at times), an intuitive thinker, a closet romantic. Really, the list can go on and on.

There are two things, however, that I have always considered myself to be, always, a teacher and a writer.

I am a teacher. It is what I am. It’s what I do and what I’ve done every day of my working life. I could never stop teaching even if I tried, and really, I can’t imagine ever trying. When people ask what I do, I hold my head up proudly and I say without any shadow of doubt, and with more than a little pride, I teach.

Sometimes when people ask me what I do, you know, when I’m not teaching, I say, “I am a writer.” But something strange always happens when I do that. My head that was held so high bends down a bit, and my voice that was so confident in my career gives way to a bit of a stutter, and suddenly the pride gets pushed out by guilt and self-doubt. I’m not lying, I tell myself. I am a writer. I write all the time, every minute of every day. The problem is the words never seem to make it from my head to my fingers.

Is a writer who doesn’t write still a writer?

Well, no.

According to the English Oxford Living Dictionaries found online a writer is:

  • A person who has written something or who writes in a particular way:

    ‘the writer of the letter’
    1. 1.1 A person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or occupation:
      ‘Dickens was a prolific writer’
      ‘a writer of short stories’

So basically, a writer writes… words… for people to read. So maybe, really, I’m more of a story teller, except, when you get down to a definition of that, it probably involves actually telling someone an actual story.

I imagine, therefore I could be.

I’ve always had the stories. I can’t remember a time when there weren’t stories. As a child I was often accused of lying, but basically, these were just the stories I told myself and came to believe. I was just that good at story telling. My mother used to tell me about my make-believe dog. It followed me everywhere and, according to my mom, I have no memory of this dog, I believed fully in its existence. I even made room for it in my bed, sleeping far to one side, rather than in the middle, a habit I continue to this day. Sadly, my dog went with us to Florida and decided to stay there. I never saw him again. I don’t blame him, though. We lived in North Dakota at the time, and it was winter.

As I grew older, we moved; and we moved a lot. From the age of eight until my last year of high school I never spent more than a year and a half in the same school. You don’t make many friends when you’re always the new kid and you are shy as hell, so, I created worlds with friends and enemies, heroes and villains. In my worlds, the good guys were always outsiders, but it was their choice. They were quirky but strong and dependable. They were misunderstood, but… well, you get the idea. I tried, a couple of times, to write these worlds down, but I discovered that they weren’t for writing at all. They were for living.

Books and old movies became my conduit to these worlds. I would sit for hours reading anything and everything, and then, at night, when everyone else was in bed, I’d get up and watch old black and white movies on television. Sometimes these were classic films and film noir. I saw Citizen Kane, Topper, The Thin Man, just about every movie with James Cagney or Jimmy Stuart I could find, Bringing Up Baby and a bunch of old matinee movies featuring characters like Boston Blackie and the Cisco Kid. I lived those movies and novels, and then, I changed them, made them mine. Soon, they were wholly different. Yet, I never wrote them down.

I write, therefore I will be

James Thurber said, “Don’t worry about getting it right, just get it written.”

Actually, he probably wrote that, because, that’s what writers do. They write. That’s what the dictionary said, and I trust my dictionary. There’s truth in those words, though, isn’t there. I mean when you get right down to it, that’s what all the great, and even the merely good, writers say. If you want to write, write. Sometimes they take whole books to say just that thing.

There is something magical to me about the written word. It fascinates me that I can read the poetry of a man who lived and wrote over 500 years ago and still be moved by his words. I wouldn’t understand his world. He certainly wouldn’t understand mine. Yet his words transport me, and I understand him and I know without a doubt that he, somehow, understands me. That, in my mind, is true magic

It’s also completely intimidating.

When I put word to paper, or pixels to computer, I’m creating a bit of forever. Someday someone  may read it, may be moved, find questions, or understanding, or a world that they can call their own. My own experiences tell me that writing is a way to connect the past to the present to the future, to let reality meet fantasy, and to create worlds where once there was nothing but void. It’s freakin’ scary, is what it is.

Yet, these stories keep rattling in my brain, and they want out. They need to be shared. They need to be written. I can only imagine the stories that have lived in other people’s brains, shouting to be released, only to be shoved behind sturdier walls of self-doubt and false comparisons.

So here I am, once again poised to write. I’ve accepted my own challenge to write each day. Every day at least 500 words will go from my head to my fingers and find their way into the world. Maybe they’ll take a form of an essay, as these words did, or maybe they’ll add to one of the many, many stories I’ve started and abandoned. I don’t know. I know I won’t always get it right. I’m a bit worried I’ll never get it right.I do, however, know this.

I will get it written.

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