How do You Know if You Are a Writer?
I have a dear friend who is an artist. Truly. Her passion lies in the area of interior design. She has the education, skills and work experience to prove it.
My passion lies in the area of writing. I, on the other hand, don't have the background, resume or publishing trail to prove it. Yet, the other day she told me that I am an artist, too. Truly.
I was baffled. How was this possible?
I am lucky to have a friend who is a true cheerleader. She is not only encouraging me to pursue something that is near and dear to my heart, but also convincing me to own the idea that I already am who I want to be. Simply because I have passion and have started to walk the walk. She understands more deeply what I am still in the process of discovering and believing: that I am a writer, even if I am not yet a published author and, more importantly, that I am on my way to fulfilling a dream.
What is Your Story?
I have dreamt of writing a children's book for a long, long time. But my stumbling block has always been the difficulty of figuring out what my story should be. Surely my writing needed a purpose and a meaning, but nothing ever seemed important or creative enough to get me started. On I went with life, as routine as I knew it.
I once considered elaborating on the idea of a child, who after turning himself into a letter O, literally rolled from one adventure to another. I had been prompted by the sight of a tire rolling down the side of the road as I was driving my kids to school. And the ensuing conversation among the four of us about the amazing places we could travel to, the experiences we could marvel in if only we were as free as an object without a specific destination. But after dropping off the kids at school, my mind drifted back to my long list of to-dos before it was time for pick-up.
Or about the curious life of a baby lamb who believed he was a dog. This idea was based on a real life account of my father-in-law who enjoys farming as a hobby. After witnessing the death of an ewe who had given birth to a lamb, and failing to graft the lamb to another ewe for milk, 'Spunkie' was brought into their home and fed from a bottle. He lived happily in the warmth of their kitchen, enjoyed weekly baths in their sink, was never choosey about which lap he could sit on and loved the company of two Jack Russell terriers. It was months later, at the time when the lamb was returned to the outside world, that my eyes were opened with wonder. Spunkie sat shivering and weeping by the fence, near the dogs on the other side for comfort and safety, and as far away as possible from his next of kin. They were as foreign to him as the life of a lamb, who believed he was a dog, was to me. But at the end of the weekend and upon return to my desk job in the big city, I became distracted with deadlines and meetings.
Ultimately my inspiration to put pen to paper came to me in a very unexpected way. I was not searching for an actual idea or beginning, but was simply reading with my son in preparation for a monthly book club with a few of his classmates. Twenty years had gone by. I must stop here and give credit to Kate DiCamillo and Jon Scieszka, both very accomplished children's authors, and their joint work for a short story titled "Your Questions for Author Here" in Guys Read Funny Business, who brought this 'a-ha moment' to me.
To that end, I write today about the simple art of writing. If you find yourself at a similar crossroad about authorship, please read on. My hope is to convince you to pursue your passion even if your path still seems unclear.
Key Elements of a Writer
According to DiCamillo and Scieszka, there are six key elements which enable people to become writers. When I stumbled across their written words and kept nodding my head in agreement, I was delighted to have found proof that I was indeed a candidate for 'the job'. I know I must have been deeply moved because my son stopped reading, and looked at me to ask what all the excitement was about.
None of the elements mentioned below require special training or experience. To date, I have worked mostly in business, followed by a brief career as a preschool teacher before becoming a stay-at-home Mom. In fact, becoming a writer rests on the little moments in life which do not go unnoticed, but rather become the starting point for something deeply insightful or curiously intriguing. Maybe the rolling tire or Spunkie did sow the seeds for my current career.
Today, I will begin to claim that I am a writer because I:
- possess the power of imagination: I am creative in my approach of life, arriving at knowledge and understanding through a variety of ways; I am sympathetic and open-minded to different viewpoints
- thrive on curiosity: I have an endless need to learn and understand, never just appreciating something at face value; my world is rich in depth and value
- show interest in the things and people of the world: I have been fascinated with differences among cultures since a young age; I feel invigorated by those who differ from the norm
- display wonder about the story behind an object: I believe that every object which has meaning has a unique narrative about its existence; things don't just happen by chance
- enjoy the simple pleasures of the sound of rain on the roof: I appreciate the natural wonders of the world; I believe in fate and never let go of hope
- feel an intense desire to tell someone else about my heart: I enjoy meaningful conversation which create special and lasting bonds; I find pleasure in connecting with others over emotional ideas
The Added Benefit of Writing
My inlaws, who have known me for roughly 20 years, have been encouraging me to write for a long time. Upon reading some of my most recent work, I have often been told by them that they are learning things they never knew about me. I can only see this as another validation that I have truly found my place in the world by being a writer.
Go ahead, just get started.