I write for a very simple reason: because it’s what I know what to do. There are so many things I don’t know how to do (and the list gets longer as I age) that it’s comforting to write: “this I know how to do.”
Like others my efforts were recognized early. I can remember reading aloud to my fourth-grade Catholic school class an essay I had written on social work in a far-flung mission community. I still recall the first line: “Wah, wah, I hear a baby crying.” How’s that for putting the audience right in the center of the action—the writerly traits already in place at age 9?
The following year, my fifth-grade teacher lauded a description I penned about red Christmas bows. I called them “delicious,” and she thought that was inspired. That kind of exercise of the imagination is one of the elements that can make writing invigorating. (As an adult, I once did a piece on my cat’s viewing her owner—me—with a jaundiced eye. I don’t know if readers had fun with it but I sure did.)
For many years, I was a weekly newspaper reporter, euphemistically, an “independent contractor.” Fancy words for stories about local council meetings that garnered $25 apiece. What I liked was that I would come home with my hastily scrawled notes and transform them on the page into something of beauty. Well, not exactly beauty, but at least a manageable whole. I remember thinking, “This is making order out of chaos,” and there’s something uniquely satisfying about that.
In my latest iteration as a writer, I have chosen to compose and submit pieces to online magazines. I’m not one for stream-of-consciousness writing. I need a theme to structure my thoughts. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a lot of them online. I have yet to be published; but this career is young. I enjoy keeping my chops up and I hope my talents improve.
For many years, I was stymied in my attempts at writing because I so admired Joan Didion. I loved the spare precision of her sentences. I don’t share her dark vision though, and I often wondered if I had a right to write, if there is such a thing. At one point, I researched authors who had sunnier dispositions in what they wrote. I found precious few. I wondered is it necessary to be nihilistic in order to be a “serious writer?” I think not. A writer’s voice is as individual as people’s smiles, and I hope there’s room for us all. I’m just finding my writer’s voice and it’s an interesting journey. I’m not nearly as archly intellectual as I imagined myself, which may be a blessing to me and my readers.
A friend recently urged me to keep writing. “It’s what you do,” she said, “You’re a writer.”