When I was little, my friends and I played the typical games of children. I sucked at Tag, because I was so slow and would spend frustrating afternoons as the perpetual It. Dodgeball, kick the can, rollerskating, baseball and the traditional games were other excuses for humiliation. My choice was either to be the lonely one on the sidelines or to reject play entirely for hours lost in the magical world of books. However, when imagination games like Cops and Robbers ruled our play, I was the kid everybody sought out. We'd yell out our choice of role. (Prissy, chubby, little goody two shoes that I was, I always chose to play robber.) Then, our little group would turn to me, and the story we'd act out that day would come pouring out of me. Sometimes, we never needed to go any farther, and we'd sit in my hedge lined back yard, staining our lips and tongues with Kool-Aid, and I'd make up story after story.
This stayed with me as I grew older, and when I was a teenaged baby sitter, I was much in demand. The parents liked me because I'd clean up the messes the kids and I made, but beyond that, I could get my charges to go to bed on time. Well, they'd be in bed, if not asleep, because I'd tell stories. The boys would get tales that started in the boring details of learning how to drive. A real life meandering over the yellow line or a glimpse of a cop car in my rear view mirror would morph into wild car chases. The girls would become the beautiful heroic princesses of their own grand adventures where they saved the day.
School reinforcd this love of story telling, but it also gave me a new love, words and grammar. Sentence diagrams were like a witch's grimoire, a how to that unlocked mysteries. Then as now, I had a weakness for clauses, marking run on sentences as my writing Achilles heel. A dictionary was a source of riches, where I could take a heretofore unknown word and make it my own. A new word was like cash in my pocket, and I felt stronger and more secure because of it.
When I was twelve, I was assigned a book to read that immediately became one of my life long favorites, Of Mice and Men. When I came to the end, I was crying real tears. Now for me to cry was pretty common, but I'd never cried over a book. My assignment was to write an essay on the themes in the book, and my teacher read my essay to the class. When I heard my words coming from someone else, it hit me for the first time. This is what I was going to do.
Writing has only rarely supported me, but it is what I do, and a writer is what I am. I've tried to run from it many times. I've tried to dismiss it as a childish dream that I should have left behind with braces and pigtails. I've tried to minimize and disrespect what I can do with writing because my talents are different than the authors whose work I love so much. I'm no Steinbeck, no Hemingway, no Parker, no Alcott, no Thoreau, no Lewis, no Hemingway, no Yeats, no Plath, no Auden, no Lee. I'm not even Wells, Rice, or King. I'm way too old to still be struggling to find or redefine my voice and a real place for writing in my life.
But I can't escape it. I'm still the little girl enamored with stories that come from that ineffable inside/outside of me place. I'm still word drunk. I'm still in love with the callous on my fingers that came from holding a pen and proud of the keyboard with letters that have been worn off. I don't want to escape writing anymore, though I appreciate the advise Louisa May Alcott gave to a fledgling writer to do anything else, to dig ditches if one must. Writing and not writing both drive me crazy, but for better or worse, this is what I must do.
This entry was motivated by Sunday Scribblings.
Sunday Scribblings, writing