And my middle finger is saying right back: “F-You blog stat chart! Just because no one is reading my blog this month, (probably because I haven’t actually written anything NEW for a month) does not mean you should give me the finger like that. I mean jeez. I have been busy doing important stuff in my spare time: like THE MENDING, which took me practically FOREVER to finish because I can’t see well enough anymore to get the thread through the needle so I mostly just spent a lot of time avoiding THE MENDING because it’s upsetting to be aging so much that I can’t SEE, plus I have never been very good at sewing because I dropped out of home economics to take a typing class (explains the bad cooking too) because I didn’t KNOW at the time that when I was forty-ish I would be typing with just MY POINTER FINGERS on something called an iPad. Besides, who do you think I AM ‘Ma from Little House on the Prairie’? Who freaking does THE MENDING anymore. I say throw that shit out and buy new clothes at the thrift shop.”
Wow. Who knew my middle finger could say all that! It sounds like it is little defensive and possibly avoiding the issue at hand. (Note my punny.) But that was my LEFT middle finger saying all that. My right middle finger has been earnestly trying to help me do some writing (on my laptop where it is needed).
But the thing is I feel silly calling myself a writer. It’s like saying that I am a dancer when what I really am is someone who flops around in spontaneous happiness to my favorite songs when no one is looking.
I’ve simply been a passionate note taker since I was seven, a scraggly, heart bursting girl, sitting in front of a handmade cross, writing ode to (another) dead squirrel that our cat killed, despite the obnoxious warning bell we’d put on his collar (the cat’s not the squirrel’s, duh). Like so many other moments in my life, it was crucial to ‘tell’ about that one. The tribute to an otherwise unrecognized loss combined with my own raw emotion placed on paper somehow created a release that no other means could. Words were (and are) like air to me: important to breath in (words in head) but equally important to breathe out (words on paper). It never mattered back then if people read my words. What mattered was that I wrote them.
Fast forward to college when it was time to DECIDE who I was and what I was going to DO. I took a few writing classes, thinking quietly to myself “maybe” I could be a writer. I exposed my words and was met with what felt like painfully harsh criticism from my professors and other students I pushed through the courses, did what they said to do to “be a writer’ got mostly C’s. But comments like “you’re not being authentic” caused me to replace “maybe” with “nope, screw this”.
But the interesting thing is what happened in my other courses, philosophy, history, politics, classes I was pursuing with the very practical plan of going to law school. In these courses, I wrote outlandish papers that were inappropriate and ridiculous: a love story between opposing political candidates; a heated dialogue with a philosopher in my dream; rewriting history so that it had a happy ending. Like when Hitler’s mom met a different guy because his WOULD HAVE BEEN dad accidentally fell into a well and wasn’t discovered until past the time he was supposed to meet Hitler’s mom, thereby creating a boy named VonHappy instead of Hitler. I KNEW this was completely unacceptable but kept writing my papers with complete disregard to standards. Ironically I got mostly A’s on them. (Clearly run-on sentences did not matter so much to history professors.)
One philosophy professor wrote this note on one of my papers:
“You can’t keep doing this Heather. Have you thought about pursuing creative writing as a career? I really should give you an F but the facts are all there and it was really entertaining so I’m giving you an A-. But if you’re going to go to law school you should probably get more serious.”
I never went to law school. Getting more serious seemed too serious. Plus I was broke.
But with no law school ahead and nothing much to show for my four year degree except superior beer bonging skills and journals filled with ‘note taking’ about all the man-boys I loved, I took a sales position at my mom and dad’s company.
And I cried every single night for a year because I hated it.
I had no training on how to “sell stuff” but I wasn’t qualified to do anything ELSE either. So I wrote about how much I hated it in my journals. But I also started company newsletters and wrote business plans and created a few marketing pieces that were pretty good considering I had no skills in this area. I also discovered that I could write out my sales presentations, practice them out loud (over and over and over) and then write out the desired outcome: visualization. I got better at sales started to feel more satisfied. I also drank a lot of wine. That helped too.
Enter a whole bunch of babies. Ask me if I remember those years. I do vaguely and there are pictures. Six babies in eleven years, a full time career, traveling husband, traveling me… there was almost no writing because there was no extra time in the day…and the drops of it that did come were spent staring off into space like a dementia patient. There are a couple of optimistic journal entries and then lots of blank pages for the first five years. But right about the year our third baby was born I started writing weird Christmas letters and silly birth announcements that told from my personal lens what it was like to build a family of 8 and “maybe” continued to linger.
When I finally stopped giving birth (I mean ENOUGH already!) and the fog lifted, and the kids all got into school and I started to feel a little bit like my old self again (only way older and mostly BLIND) I looked around and thought: “It’s time H. It’s time for MAYBE to happen. It’s time to get PUBLISHED!” And then I mostly didn’t write, for another four years.
I see why, clearly, as though the eye of the needle is suddenly large enough (probably because I put my glasses on). The drive to “get published” (just like the drive to “become a writer” in college,or the desire to raise stats on a blog site that is supposed to be FUN) made writing the cause instead of the result. Looking back, I see that when writing was simply a result of my life, when it didn’t matter what people thought, it just happened without effort, in all kinds of forms. And it was satisfying. While it’s nice to sometimes be heard (thank you my wonderful loyal small group of followers) it is as equally fulfilling to simply TELL. And “maybe” that’s enough. For now:)