A journey usually has a simple beginning, just as a transformation must begin with our ordinary selves. I asked my mother not long ago,
What did I like to do when I was a little kid?
The answer was no surprise; I would entertain myself with reading, making crafts or writing little stories. I have had the mark of a writer, the tell-tale bump on my right middle finger, for as long as I can remember. Elementary school book reports were nearly a treat and high school term papers were so second nature that I recollect having dictated whole paragraphs to a certain sibling who shall remain nameless. As a History major/English minor in College, there was no shortage of writing assignments and if that was not enough, I joined the campus newspaper. Since I could hold a pencil, I wrote daily until I was handed a college degree. And then I had to go to work.
Surveying the landscape of the half dozen or so jobs from the past 15 years, at every one I incorporated writing even if it was not part of my “job description.” At one of my first post-college jobs, my role was to cold-call marketing managers to sell an artificial intelligence program that would analyze focus group scripts (really). After a few months of work that was tedious at best, I decided to summarize the process, analyzing the tactics and statistics in a way that I thought might be useful to the company. This is a pattern that would repeat at other jobs – perform the work, grow weary at some subconscious creative level and assign myself a writing task. I would be temporarily buoyed and feel better about the job; 20/20 hindsight now reveals that it was simply the writing that lifted me.
In the final weeks of my college career, I belatedly took a creative writing class, strictly for fun. The credits were tallied, but to say that I didn’t need this class would be wrong. Completing a 35 page research paper holds a certain satisfaction, but having words pour out of you from a place you never knew existed is a potent experience. When famous writers state that the characters speak to them and the books often “write themselves,” I know what they mean. I had a brief taste.
I have done much thinking and reading recently about recognizing my unique strengths, living my passion, knowing what I am meant to do and understanding it all as an identity. Writing is not simply something I am good at, writing is an imperative. The clearest statement I can make about my life is that I am a writer.
As I recently re-read a short story that I wrote for that creative writing class, I was a little surprised and genuinely impressed by that long ago writer. This story has hibernated long enough, as have I. The next step on my journey to change my life is to submit it for publication. I know that the odds are against me, but what do I have to lose? I have been editing and before the end of the year (a mere four weeks away) I plan to package it up and send it out. And we’ll see if it comes back a butterfly.