On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

One of my Facebook/writer friends recently posed this question and quickly received a number of responses. I thought about it a while and told her my answer was too long for a FB response and that I’d write a blog post about it. So Krista, this one’s for you.

The first time I remember doing any serious writing was my sophomore year in high school. I had a young English teacher, fresh out of college, who was determined to teach us creative writing. One assignment was a short story, and I wrote a mystery/romance with an O Henry twist. The teacher liked it, particularly my use of imagery, and had me read it in front of the class. As an innocent 15-year-old, writing “romantic” things was one thing, but reading them aloud was a completely different matter. I thought I would die of embarrassment.

Our next assignment was to write about a personal experience and a lesson we learned from it. My story was called The Green-Eyed Monster and was about the envy I experienced when my brother was getting a lot of attention for something he had done. I remember standing in my closet and whispering I wish I’d get some attention around here once in a while. Not long afterward, I got more attention than I wanted when a blood vessel ruptured in my throat and wasn’t detected until I started throwing up the results. Being a good little Southern Baptist, I attributed my illness to God’s disappointment at my pettiness and assumed it was His way of showing me up close personal to be careful what I asked for. My teacher didn’t like this one so much. In fact, she read it to the class as a bad example. She didn’t attack the writing but rather my conclusions. She probably wasn’t a good little Southern Baptist like me. Thankfully, she read my composition anonymously, but I recognized it. I’ve never taken criticism well, and I decided right then that I no longer wanted to write my innermost thoughts, at least for other people to read.

My pen lay dormant until my freshman year in college. I attended an after-hours political discussion group a few times and had a mini-social awakening. For a few months, my head swirled with ideas, and I wrote what I was sure was earth-shaking social commentary. I wasn’t sure enough to let anyone see them, though, and after a few months, my priorities changed. Before my 20th birthday, I had a bout of mono, got a “real” job, was swept off my feet by a dashing young man in a red VW, and got married. My pen went back into hibernation for a while.

For the next several decades I wrote sporadically. I scribbled about defining moments like the birth of my son and the break-up of my marriage, but my work was carefully hidden in a file drawer or destroyed altogether to insure no one got a peek at my real feelings.

I did a lot of writing in the business world. I worked in banking, oil, insurance, and manufacturing, and I became the go-to person when someone wanted a well-worded, concise letter, a memo, some snappy ad copy, or informative training material. I dabbled with a series of Bible study lessons based on women in the Bible that were lost when an outdated computer bit the dust, and I wrote a couple of travel articles for a sailing club and a Harley chapter.

Then I became a caregiver. My aunt who had been there and done that suggested I keep a journal that might prove to be helpful to other caregivers. I scribbled a bit, but still sporadically and very privately. Finally, in the fall of 2007, we took a 7-week trip in a newly acquired motorhome, and we took my parents with us. For some unknown reason, I kept a daily journal and allowed some close friends and family members to read select portions. When they didn’t scoff and, in fact, reacted positively, I continued. It took me four years and lots of re-writes to turn that journal into a manuscript called A Long and Winding Road, RVing with Mom and Dad. In the process, I came out of the writer’s closet, so to speak. I posted my writings on Authonomy.com and received some constructive criticism and lot of encouragement from other writers. I submitted my writing to several publishers and agents and received a host of polite “no thank yous”, but that didn’t hurt nearly as badly as I expected, and I got more encouragement here and there. As the book neared completion, ideas kept coming, so I posted those on-line, first as Facebook Notes and then in my personal blog.

So Krista, to answer your original question, I guess I knew I wanted to be a writer, or had become one, when the need broke through the fear. When the need to put thoughts into words became greater than the fear of rejection or criticism. When a new idea bubbled up from that writer place inside and wouldn’t let me sleep until I let it flow through the keyboard. Hi, my name is Linda, and I’m a writer.

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Comments on: "When Did You Know You Wanted To Be a Writer?" (6)

  1. Ahh yes, when the need overcomes the fear…the critical tipping point.

  2. Linda
    Great story! I know what you mean about wanting to be a writer for a long time and starting and stopping. I too began writing in high school and kept it up through college. I had a little orange plastic notebook that went with me everywhere and I would write my stories. Even when I worked I wrote. I’d make attempts to get published every so often and the rejection letters stopped me. Finally a friend really pushed me until it happened. And now, I feel like you. I’m Becky and I am a writer.

    • Hi Becky. Thanks for stopping by and taking a look at my musings. It’s wonderful that those of us with similar stories can connect on the internet and encourage each other. I will look forward to reading more of your posts.
      Blessings,
      Linda B.

  3. Well, we’re certainly glad you’ve come out of the closet! And I thought I was the only one! LOL!!!

    We’re also fortunate that you have the courage to share honestly, openly, and freely so that other’s are also encouraged to come out, face their fears, and begin living more genuinely and authentically themselves.

    Sharing and celebrating not just the good things along the way — but the bad, the hard, and the ugly too. The more we reveal, the less energy we expend trying to conceal what is not real. And when we begin living out loud, loving who we are, and embracing the entire package of what God has so lovingly and miraculously created — magic begins to occur all around us, and we realize that living our own truth — really does set us free.

    I believe once we taste the true freedom of loving who we really are — “warts and all” as Aunt “K” would say — it becomes virtually impossible to return again into that little, stuffy, cramped and confining closet we believed protected us at one time. Albeit, easier said than done, however.

    So even though that newbie Creative Writing teacher of yours probably wasn’t a good little Southern Baptist like yourself — just as you suspected — I’m grateful that she did not concur with your conclusions that God needed to teach you a lesson by causing you to cough up blood so you would be sure never to long for attention or approval from others again. Lord, have mercy…

    I’m sure that the tenderhearted young lady you where then was essentially crucified emotionally that day, and it did cause you to put your talent and interest for writing into the closet for decades afterwards — knowing it was your story she was attacking in front of the entire class. Yes, anonymously — yet far too dangerously close to being publicly exposed for a young girls heart to ever forget or recover from quickly.

    Why would I be grateful for something like that?!?

    Because: a.) that interest and talent of yours never left you or died, it just hibernated and simmered on low, gaining passion gradually and sticking it’s head out to play when the coast of other peering eyes was clear, until it grew so strong and powerful, that you could no longer restrain it from expressing itself and giving us the magic of what we enjoy so much in your writing today.

    It would have been enjoyable to read if this traumatizing experience had never happened, but I would ague that your writing would not pack the punch it does today if you had not suffered this experience as a terrified innocent way back then.

    And, b.) because that inexperienced, but obviously inspired, teacher was entirely correct that your conclusions were off the mark and a bit frightening even. Not because the writing was bad, but because it incorrectly characterized God and God’s methodologies for dealing with naughty — good little Southern Baptists.

    I was a not-so-good, and definitely not-so-little Southern Baptist young man myself, and I wish someone had challenged my belief in a mean, angry and vengeful Heavenly Father that would punished me harshly, to show me how much he really loved me and cared.

    But then, to be fair, I would also have to submit that I probably would not have blossomed into the talented and completely fabulous creature I am today had I not initially espoused the same incorrect beliefs about God, and not been given a similar blessing, disguised as a horrific curse, that caused me to introvert and hide my gifts and true self, until I practically exploded out of the closet when the doors finally blew open again!

    The need to write and express my authentic-self and heart-felt feelings could no longer be restrained, thank God. And the fear, at that point, had no chance of surviving the tremendous wave of love and passion that flooded my veins with renewed strength and courage to take this not-so- little light of mine, out from under the proverbial bush, and let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. I’m gonna let it shine.

    Hi Linda. I’m Tim. And I’m a writer too!

    Wanna be my sponsor and Harley-pool to the meetings?

    United we stand, divided we fall. Love assuages our fear, shining our Light prevents running into the walls. That’s all. Y’all. Come back and read us sometime, ya hear?

    • Tim, you make me laugh, you make me blush, but most of all you make me glad that my writing speaks to you. I end my book by saying I hope the reader has been amused, encouraged or maybe inspired by my story. The same goes for my blog ramblings. If they touch someone, I’m happy.

      As for Harley-pooling, I’ve been riding two up behind David since I totaled mine in 2007 (the details of that are in my book, too!). If you want to tag along on your own bike, we’d be glad for the company, but until finances allow me to get a trike, I can’t offer you a ride!

      Blessings,

      Cousin Linda

      • …well naw, we can’t be gettin’ all 3 of us up on that hog or Hog Daddy be making us go on a diet or some’um like dat.

        so i’ll just drive my ol’ air-conditioned se-dan and follow y’all from behind. it fits me perfectly and the last time i rode me a bike was my daddy’s Gold Wing dat I got stuck in about 2 feet a mud and stuff riding the hills back behind the farm in Mesquite. he wasn’t impressed at all. naw… he was not impressed with me none a’tall!

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