I honestly can’t remember a time when words were not part of my life. I don’t remember learning to read…I simply remember reading. When I was a child, I’d read anything I could get my hands on. I read the TV Guide from cover to cover. I read every book my parents managed to buy for me at book fairs or from Scholastic book clubs. I even read the encyclopedia set we owned. Thinking back, I think my need to write sprang from my love of reading.
In school, my teachers were always complimentary of my writing ability. I was a big-time nerd in school. I loved it. I loved doing well at it. In fact, growing up, “school” was probably the only thing that I was really good at. Getting good grades was a huge ego boost for me, and my ability to write helped this immensely.
Writing was, and is, the best way I know to communicate. I’m not a good conversationalist. I tend to listen more than I speak and, when I do speak, I often want to take back whatever it was I just said. Too weird. Too dumb. Too pedantic. Too–well, you name it. Writing, on the other hand, is where my words live. I can craft exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it. I don’t get that awkward sinking feeling about my writing that I do about my conversation.
I started writing stories when I when I was a kid. Movies and television were the fodder of my imagination. But it was all mostly pale imitations of the programs I saw on cable. I wrote more while I was in college–stories, screenplays, poems. Most of it was drivel, but heart-felt drivel. I wanted to be Jim Morrison so badly, I could spit.
I started getting “serious” about writing just a few years ago. I had left a job I used to love and was trying to find my way. So I started blogging and trying my hand at some serial fiction. Then I entered a short story contest held by the college I work for and also submitted two non-fiction pieces to one of my favorite magazines. The magazine pieces got published and the story won third prize. The taste of publication had given me the bug again.
Since then, I’ve written a few stories, won third prize in a couple of other contests, and have had my first sales for publication (though the stories haven’t been published quite yet). With my extremely limited successes, I thought that what I wanted was to be published. My numerous rejection emails grounded me in the reality of the unlikelihood of that actually happening.
So if it is not for publication, why do I do this?
Because I don’t feel good about myself if I don’t. Simple as that.
If I’m not writing, my inner voice chastises me, because being a “writer” is part of my identity. It’s part of who I am. And I can’t not do it and stay sane.
I love that feeling of immersion I get when I’m “in the zone”, when the world fades away and it’s only me and the words, dancing together on the page.
I love creating worlds and populating them with interesting people. It’s the ultimate in playing “let’s pretend”. I get to scratch this itch a bit when I’m game mastering, but I’m in total control when I’m writing. It’s a heady feeling.
I love words. The way they look on the page, the way they sound, the rhythms they make when they come together. As a librarian and a reader, I surround myself with them. As a writer, I get to throw myself into the primordial ooze with them, smearing letters all over my hands, and creating something new and exciting–or not. Sometimes I just make a mess. That can be fun too.
This is why I write. Sometimes I forget. I focus on the rejections, the writer’s block, the nagging feeling that I’m an imposter. Instead, I need to focus on what I love about writing and just sit down and do it.
Then I can feel human again.
I am in my fifties. I have realized in the last few years that I feel much better when writing, even if I don’t finish. Just putting words down leads to, yep, feeling human.
Let us both remember that joy.