Through the years, I continued to dabble in writing. I wrote an essay as a senior in high school on Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy. It probably wasn’t great, but encouragement from the teacher did much to keep me writing. Isn't it funny how we remember significant first events? Throughout my college years, which came in three waves, I always felt that writing presented the most significant form of learning, and I always took those assignments seriously, even if I complained about them.
Then, of course, there were the love poems. Some good, some bad, but they always scored me points. However, I did know that when I wrote them, I felt free. I felt significant. During all of my growing up years, I often heard my mom tell me to live to the dictates of my heart. Now, I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but I do know that when I wrote poetry, I felt like that was the closest thing to such a concept. I continued writing in a pastoral capacity, and it was well-received. Then, once again, I moved on.
Only now, it was for the advanced expository writing class that I was taking, having returned to college. I liked that class, learning more technical skills and reading more professional examples. My professor encouraged me to keep writing and suggested I should take a writing course for teachers. She believed that I would be a good English teacher. And I was. I had to write rather copiously for an English degree that included many hours of literature classes. In those classes, I learned how literature can help readers to view the world and self in relation to the world, and I enjoyed the hard work of writing because I felt energized and significant when I wrote.
Three degrees, including a masters, equipped me to teach for seventeen years, but my heart was speaking to me throughout that time. I loved my students and our time together; I learned much from them. My desire to help them learn drove me to write even more—to write clear instructions, to write with them on the assignments, to publish with them, too, when it was appropriate and time allowed. One of my articles from my master’s program was published in Democracy and Education based on my work with my colleagues in leading teacher study groups. My heart, however, was no nonsense; I needed to pursue discovery and extend my teaching in the context of writing, creative writing, so I resigned. Had I not, I would not now have a novel and a volume of poetry, with a second of each in progress.
Through five blog entries, I have presented my personal writing odyssey. My first novel—working towards a May 2016 release—concerns self-awakening that occurs through listening to and fellowshipping with one’s own heart. We can learn much from one another, much that helps us in our own journey—things such as the part childhood voices and memories play in our development; things such as listening to our hearts and moving towards those promptings; things like allowing ourselves to continue moving forward. I hope for each of us that we do just that: move forward in response to the voice of our hearts in passion, purpose, and significance.
As I continue tracing my writing journey, I realize that many of our personal purposes begin when young--at least they are deeply influenced then.
My parents, now both gone in body but alive in spirit, loved me, no doubting that, and their strengths and great personalities positively affected me. However, their alcoholism did not. Some of my earliest memories are that I could prevent it. I couldn’t, but I always tried. I lived most of my life with migraine headaches stemming from that, from trying to help, please, and just create happiness. These were conscious thoughts even when I was very young.
What does any of this have to do with writing? Well, by the sixth grade, I had become a real master at faking so that I could stay home and preserve the family. In fact, I faked myself right into a tonsillectomy that, looking back, I know damn well I didn’t need because my throat was rarely sore. While home, I read. I studied. I learned. I went through reading phases: Jacques Cousteau books, Jules Verne, baseball players, composers. Those are some of my memories. I thought I want to write and make different worlds. I want to make people laugh. I got my own subscriptions to Reader’s Digest and Sports Illustrated. Reader’s Digest seemed the perfect way to begin my writing career. If I sold enough, I probably wouldn’t have to go to school ever. Now, mind you, I was only 11 years old, but I thought that I could surely get something published in the “All in a Day’s Work” section or “Laughter Is the Best Medicine” or “Humor in Uniform.” That should cinch it.
Wait, though, I had to learn to type, so on one of my visits to my otolaryngologist’s office in downtown St. Louis, I begged my mom—who had taken us by bus—to go to Famous and Barr. I loved riding the old wooden treaded escalator with the clackety sound it made on the way to the book section. I got a how-to type book, Gregg’s, I think it was. On that same visit, I happened to see a Berlitz Traveler’s Guide for Spanish, and I got that little yellow and orange, spiral bound book. In one fell swoop, I fell in love with writing and with Spanish.
I got home that day and retrieved my dad’s old open-faced Olivetti Underwood manual typewriter. I dutifully followed the instructions in my new book and repeatedly typed asdfg ;lkjh aqaz swsx dedc frfv gtgb ;p;/ lol. kik, jujm hyhn. Then, the numbers, of course, and all else to follow. I got good. I was ready.
Now, how did I know anything about the categories that I thought I would submit to in Reader’s Digest? Well, my dad told some pretty good stories about WWII in Europe; he wouldn’t talk about the bad times, but there were some funny times. I could make something work. I typed and erased and typed and erased and finally finished what I thought would be a good story. Wait, there was a word count? So, I counted words. Too many. Start over. What? Oh, no, I didn’t have a copy because they didn’t send it back. How to use a sheet of carbon paper? It smelled good, but it was a mess to correct! I dreamed of writing a book. No, I think I will become fluent in Spanish. Yes, como se llama? Why isn’t the E key working?
I came up with dozens of reasons that I couldn’t get finished and send something to Reader’s Digest, but I finally did. I don’t think my mom really mailed my story, though, because surely it would have been published. Didn’t matter. I was proud, but I didn’t keep writing. No, I let life mess with my dreams; however, over the course of the years, I still had the dream but not the drive or direction.
I would occasionally produce actual writing, but my mind was always writing. I learned that it takes more than that to be a writer, though. I also learned that a true dream, if neglected, will keep your heart reminding you that you have a purpose to live, and one’s heart is persistent, even when it is ignored.
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!