The below is my entry to ‘Writing Contest: You Are a Writer’ which is being held by Positive Writer. The contest is open until August 30th, so feel free to enter yourself if you have a blog! The topic of the contest is also in line with my usual fare, so I hope you enjoy!
I have always been good at navigating my way off of shaky ground. It seems that since I was young, there was always some challenge to counter, some problem to find my way around, and I’ve come through every turn with a smile on my face and a lesson in my pocket. When things are unsteady, you learn to roll with the punches and to cherish those things that are steady. Like who you are – the core of your being.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been one of those “creative types.” I was never content to allow spare time to be actual spare time. I would put on a play, record an album on my old half-broken tape deck, record ads for said album complete with script…I can even remember a time that I attempted to teach myself ballet (that didn’t go well, as I’m sure you’ve pieced together.)
I’ve always written, but my goal in life was to be an actress and a singer. And then, one day, I was eighteen, and auditioning for any role I could find. The problem, when you’re a young, “cute” overweight girl, is that you will always get the role of the plucky bestie who really needs to lose some weight, and never get the lead role. It wasn’t until a small time studio executive that shall remain nameless told me that they could guarantee me a record deal if I could just drop a disgusting amount of weight in a very limited time period, that I realized this was not for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to lose weight. I did – for health reasons. What I didn’t want was to be judged by my outer appearance. A crazy thought to have when you are pursuing a career in a world that is all about the external.
Still, I continued auditioning while working a part time job at the video store, eagerly awaiting the casting director who would see through the extra pounds and cast me as something more important than “girl on treadmill” or “girl who stares longingly at a box of cupcakes”. And then one day, I got bored at work and began to jot down a story idea. Not because I thought, ‘oh, I’m going to be a writer now’, but because it was and always had been my equivalent of doodling.
Except the minute I started, my brain became an uncorked bottle, tipped on its side. I spent the entire, very dead, day at the video store cranking out an entire notebook of writing. Sure it wasn’t very good, but it was a start. I went home and I showed my husband. He was a writer. He read it and he asked me what I wanted to do with it.
I told him that I didn’t know. But it would be nice to work with what my brain could create, to be acknowledged for my mind and not my outward appearance. He told me that either was something that should be honored, but that he liked my brain more. Because he’s a sweetheart, and there’s a damn good reason why we’ve been together for sixteen years.
That was not the instant I started seeing myself as a writer, but it is the moment I became one. It was the corner turned that told me that, if I could handle rejection and an uncertain future as an artist, I should choose what kind of artist made me the most comfortable, brought me the most interest.
As time went by, I realized that only the written word was capable of bringing true excitement out in me, that I lived almost entirely in my mind anyway, and it was very interesting and sort of twisted in there, and I wanted to explore that, I wanted to project that into the world.
The moment that I actually began to see myself as a writer came years later. After a drink in a roomful of people that were very nearly strangers, I introduced myself to someone, who in return asked me what I did for a living. I told them, “I’m a legal assistant, but I’m a writer on nights and weekends.” I thought I was being clever, but the person stopped me. She was fascinated by the statement.
As I answered a load of questions about what I write and where I get all of my ideas, I realized something. “I guess, I was just joking when I said that first part. Really, I’m a writer all the time.”
In that moment, I owned it. I’m a writer before I’m anything. Everything else is just what I do to support my writing. Though it was an understanding that was both terrifying and thrilling, after that moment I wrote more than I had in the years before.
Sometimes, you need to bounce back from a failure and turn a corner so you’re facing a different direction. Sometimes, you need to stroll through shaky ground in order to, once again, find your feet level. And sometimes the only thing standing in the way of becoming something, is saying the words.