My Writing Journey
I have been writing since I could hold a pencil. I knew I was born to be a writer. It’s all I ever burned to do. I began writing plays and acting them out with neighborhood kids when I was 5 and moved to short stories as I became a tween. Not good stories, you understand, but still it was writing. I wrote and wrote as I became a teenager. Stories, poems. I filled a series of diaries.
But it wasn’t until I hit my late 20s that I started a novel. It had a mind of its own really as the entire plot and characters came to me driving to work one day. I balanced a notepad on my knee filled with this new vision writing and driving, rather sporadically down the road.
I sketched it out in 30 minutes, wrote two chapters, and shelved it. My mom was the first person I shared it with and my greatest supporter. But then work, marriage, having a child, and of course procrastination (and fear) all got in the way.
To backtrack a bit…I was adopted when I was a toddler and remained the only child of my parents. My dad painted a mysterious picture of my mother and him waiting anxiously by a cornfield outside the county line in small-town Ohio for the social worker to deliver me. Black market, perhaps? Well, it’s fun to wonder. When I was 18 my natural mother and her family would come into my life – the best news I can say about that is that they continue to live a few states away. Yeah, thanks for the genes.
It was lonely at times for me growing up, just the three of us. I yearned for siblings and cousins around. My parents were travelers and we moved every few years. We lived in England for awhile and I retain my first memories there of writing and knowing that was all I wanted to do. By the time I was 7 I had devoured most of the library in the stately old stone private school I attended. I recall the Narnia Chronicles as my first series read curled in a nook there in my gray and pink woolen uniform.
I would become a lover of Roald Dahl too and always got his books from the Tooth Fairy. Ahh….Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Danny the Champion of the World, Mr. Fantastic Fox, The Story of Henry Sugar…to mention my favorites.
During our time in England we traveled all over Europe. I always was drawing and writing stories in the back seat of the car as we traversed through the Pyrenees, hung upside down to the kiss the Blarney Stone, or spilled my drink as Flamenco dancers twirled by in Spain. And I discovered alongside my mother in France that she was really eating lamb brains, not some stew. I was taken in by the misty moors and wild ponies of craggy Wales. I was writing.
We then moved to a campground in rural N.H. to fulfill my father’s dream of running a vacation spot and along came the Little House books. I had kids to play with all the time and we had barns and horses and hogs. I loved gathering the rotten apples from the orchards to feed the hogs each day. One fall day we rounded up the hogs for slaughter.
And how I dreamt of being Laura Ingalls blowing up the pig’s bladder like a balloon and tossing it about and roasting the pig’s tail. Although, my mother was not so thrilled with scooping out the eyes to make head cheese as Laura’s mother did. I still read these books today, old friends of mine that comfort when times call.
In high school it was Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I dressed up as Aragorn (what I envisioned he would look like at the time) and of course no one knew who I was in my cape and boots with a darkened face. In my 20s Dean Koontz and Stephen King fascinated me but since having a child I lean towards gentler fiction. I admit to hiding a very tall stack of Danielle Steele and Lavyrle Spencer behind my John Grisham. I read them over and over when I am in a sentimental mood.
For some people ice cream or pizza may be what comforts them. For me it’s my library of books catalogued by genre. Feeling like a good cry and want to feel warm and fuzzy? Get out Spencer or Steele. Need to escape reality into a world of strange happenings? Pull out Dean Koontz. Need an easy read when the mind is tired? Grab a Sydney Sheldon. They are my friends.
Now moving into what I hope is a “wiser more empathetic age” I love to read about what real people are doing all around us – obstacles overcome, tragedy lived through, change created, new life begun. They provide me with inspiration to do the same and write from that experience.
Eventually, my parents and I did settle down to country living in the hill town country above Albany, NY known as the Helderberg Mountains. We lived in a 200-year old farmhouse on acres of apple trees and falling-down barns. It was a child’s world to explore. I would follow the craggy, rock walls surrounding our lands built by men ages ago that staggered up and down the hills crossing fields never ending.
I would roam the woods around our home with notebook and pen writing in fields and beside hidden ponds, and always with my two, frumpy dogs. I loved to climb tall trees to sing out John Denver songs gustily for the woods to hear. I still love John Denver – and my old friends still make fun of me for it. I remain a country girl at heart. My favorite room with a view is one strewn with fields and rock and wood and mountains looming.
But my parents opened my world up away from the rural life to the thundering spectacle of the theater. A few times a year we would dress in our finest – as people did back then for a night on the town – and travel down the mountain to eat dinner in exotic, candlelit places. They always came with a piano player tinkling out tunes, enveloping me in the smoky air.
But then would come the best part of all…sinking into my seat in a vast room watching the mountainous chandelier descend over me as the lights dimmed. Oh, to be so inspired by A Chorus Line, The Sound of Music…and holding my breath watching Richard Harris on stage in Camelot. For King Arthur was my hero and we had just visited Tintagel in England, the legendary site of King Arthur’s castle that leaned over the sea catching the violent spray.
To expand my world my parents also put me in a private Catholic Academy for girls. I proceeded to waste their money maintaining a very, low-grade academic career of skipping Mass and class. I hated authority (and still do) and pulled through to graduate only by my good grades in English and History.
A few wild teenage years later I landed in college with no clue as to what to do. I was expected to go and so I did at the tender age of 16 (I skipped a grade when younger) and flunked out my first year. I returned home a failure indeed. But that is what happens when you don’t attend class.
So one chilly October day I happened to go into the local Navy Recruiter’s office and returned home to tell my parents I signed up. Boot camp was actually fun but the military was not for me (that whole authority thing) and I returned home (again) to face myself. A few years later after several part time jobs I worked my way through college to complete my B.A. degree in English and Journalism. I did some community college newspaper writing, covered the Albany Capitol for Gannett newspapers, and wrote features for the university public relations department.
I dreamed during college of being a journalist. I quickly saw how little beans they make and so was wooed by Corporate America to make money and venture into Marketing Communications in urban North Jersey. A few jobs and higher salaries later I realized I don’t give a rat’s ass about writing one more newsletter, or press release, or churning out another website. Yes, I can make a living doing that but I can’t live doing that. I then launched my own resume writing service. It was exhilarating to be my own boss, reel in my own clients, and set my own hours. But after a few years it, too, was not enough to feed my creative soul. I wanted more.
When I hit 40 and thought when am I going to make my dream come happen? I have had this yearning to be a writer always. When could someone ask me what I do and I say with confidence, “I am a writer.” I was daunted by the vastness of writing a novel and the fear of tackling a large project overwhelmed me. Combine these paralyzing thoughts with the full knowledge that no one would ever publish a book I wrote!
One day my husband said the simplest thing to me that made all the difference. “Why don’t you forget about how you will get your book published but just sit down and write it first and stop worrying about that until you are done.” He was right, I was setting myself up for failure.
I am firmly set knowing that I cannot face being cooped up in a corporate office again with dim light and gray walls covering long, shadowy corridors of more of the same. I would shrivel and wither to nothingness for sure under a gloom of cranking out corporate communications. Therefore, I must make my dream happen.
When my mother died just before I turned 40, I knew I had to make my dream come true. For her. For me. She was my greatest champion. Now I had to be my own champion.
I loved turning 30 as I was single, independent, experiencing the world. But turning 40 was the best of all. I can finally respond, “What do I do? I do what I love, for I am a writer, you see.”