This is not a post about food. It’s not even a post about my garden, although I promise to have one of those very very soon. It shouldn’t be too long, but I had to share a little bit.
I’ve always always been addicted the written word*. There’s an audio tape somewhere in the depths of my parents’ house of me, at 22 months old, playing with my mother; we go through making my dad’s birthday cake and I recite “The Three Little Kittens” (yes, the whole thing) and sing “White Coral Bells” (a song I didn’t remember until I heard the tape as a teenager) and, using the magnets my parents bought for our refrigerator, identify the whole alphabet and name off things that start with the letter. For example, “J is for Father Joe” (the priest at our church at the time) “and Jenny!” (my grandmother’s dog – which is far more impressive when you realize we lived 2000 miles away from my grandmother at the time and we’d visited her once since I was old enough to understand English).
There’s another tape, a video this time, that exists. I’m 5 years old, in Kindergarten, reading a picture book (the kind with a story and lots of words, not the kind with a single word on a page) to the camera. Hammy to a fault (I complain to my parents when the camera is focused on my baby sister and keep looking at myself in the television), I stumble over only a single word (and correct it in short order).
My mother says I just picked up a book one day, at 3 1/2 or so, and started reading. I credit endless hours of Sesame Street and nightly bedtime stories and parents who love books so much that our shelves were always overflowing. I never lacked for reading material, whether it was a gift lovingly picked out for me by a family member or the product of our sometimes-more-than-weekly library outings (thank goodness there was a branch only a few blocks away, since I was known to finish chapter books in a few hours).
I fancied myself a writer from a very young age too, sometimes composing in my head a little narrative about what was happening. I remember vividly a day when my grade school crush fell from the top of the slide; in my head it was as though I was reading what was happening on a page. It wasn’t that I was detatched, I just liked narrating.
I kept a “regular” journal from the age of seven or eight, and then a separate one for poetry (the third one, for song lyrics and basic melodies, was started around age ten). I liked experimenting with words and more than once would use an archaic form of something just because I liked it (“whence” anyone?). My poems were most definitely not genius material (although I did win a few awards at school and have them published in our school paper, much to my delight). Most of them were really, truly BAD. But I wrote them just the same, and enjoyed the process of writing them.
As a teenager I increasingly wrote songs to express my feelings – these were also pretty bad. I’m not too handy with a piano keyboard, despite my five years of lessons, so the tunes were written out as a series of letters. “A, B, E#, C”, etc. Most of these revolved around my teenage crush, who at the time was “just a friend”. I think I wrote the last one when we (finally!) decided to date. That one was the worst of the bunch!
In young adulthood, I worked for my alma mater, in the Adult Education department. It was a pretty basic administrative job; I had to do a ton of accounting work, and some collections calling, but I never felt consumed by the process and could easily go home and expend creative energy. I wrote a lot at this time – mostly scenes from Women’s Fiction novels (not bodice-ripping romances, but the larger, mass market paperback sized ones that repeatedly get made into romantic comedy “chick flicks”). I never wrote a whole novel, or even a whole story, and I never could figure out the whole plot of anything. More than once I’d wake up in the morning with a line or two in my head and just write until I couldn’t write anymore. Sometimes it would be the beginning of a novel, but more often than not it would be a scene in the middle. Rarely did the same character inspire more than two scenes. I loved this free form of expression and sometimes I even loved what I wrote. I still think I could come up with a pretty decent story if I ever followed one of those through.
I took a Personal Narrative class about 6 years ago. Our assignments were simple – write a 3-5 page essay about something in your life. I wrote about people I met on the bus during the two years I took it daily. I wrote about my first lady-doctor appointment. I wrote about my grandmother’s house, and the memories I had of being a child there. I wrote about my Great Uncle, and how much my boyfriend (now my husband) was like him.
I planned to take more writing classes, and soon. But life got in the way, as it frequently does, and I decided it was high time for me to get a “real” job, one that used my degree and my skills. So I took some “real” classes – in copyediting, of all things, and event management, and started sending out resumes. I got a job that ended up being very stressful, and another one after that that started off fun but soon was like a vampire with my time, energy, and creativity.
I’ve not had that job for nearly a year. It wasn’t my intention nor was it my doing. I’ve been working myself to the bone looking for another one, and I’m hoping that the end of this longer-than-anticipated tunnel is in sight. But in the interim I found myself increasingly returning to the things I loved – cooking, obviously, and gardening, and tons of crafts I forgot I was good at, and singing, and photography, and writing.
Oh, the writing.
At first it was just this blog – and I’d started it years ago, when I was still at the stressful time-sucking job. But recently I’ve found myself travelling with a pen and paper. I have a notebook specifically for ideas, with a list in the back and pages in the front filled with stories. To date I’ve written three full (and one partial) manuscripts. Now, these aren’t novels, and they’re not filled with archaic words. In fact, they’re not particularly complicated overall. But they’ve made me incredibly happy.
Last month I read one of my childhood favorite stories to the students at the preschool where my husband teaches, and I went in again two weeks ago to read another. About a week later I realized I had a story stuck in my head. This wasn’t a scene from a potentially-blockbuster romantic comedy, but rather a short story for children, using poetry as a storytelling device (I’d tell you more but it would give things away!). That’s actually the partially-written manuscript, since the poetry proved to be more difficult than anticipated (it needed a little time to percolate and will eventually be written in entirety). The next day I had another, completely different, story. I took an hour to myself and wrote it all down in my notebook.
Yesterday I shut myself in the office, away from my husband’s football game, and sat in his great-grandfather’s comfortable armchair and wrote and wrote. Lists of ideas, scraps of stories, and another full manuscript. This was the first one about humans, coincidentally – the rest were all about animals. (You may recall I said I had three full manuscripts written – the last was a mostly-finished story about a bird who fell out of his nest, penned originally three summers ago when I found a tiny, bald baby mockingbird in my backyard; I edited it last week, and typed it out.)
Why am I sharing? I’m not really sure, exactly, except that it makes me happy. I feel like I’ve accomplished something, gotten back to my roots, enjoyed the creative process. I’m actually going to be going to a Children’s Book Writing lecture next month, and I may even attempt to get these stories published professionally (even if I don’t, I’ll probably try my hand at some primitive illustrations and get them printed up in a photo book).
I don’t know how much time I’ll have to be writing in the future – I’m waiting for word about a potential part-time opportunity right now – but I feel really good about what I’ve accomplished.
*Oh yes, I stole this line completely, from Ever After. 🙂