I’m blogging because I can no longer ignore the internal imperative to “Write, damn it!” This is a way I can recognize myself and “come out” as a writer.
Why do I need to come out? In my forty-four years, I’ve done many things, but only recently have had the courage to sometimes identify myself as a writer. For work, I’ve been a science teacher, a hazardous waste worker, an environmental trainer, a safety manager, and a lawyer.
But my first love was always reading, and my first dream was always to become a writer.
Somehow, I became a Chemistry major with a teaching certification. The best I can figure out now, twenty-plus years later, was that I was afraid to take the chance to follow my dreams—becoming a writer was too hard and I’d never be able to support myself with a degree in literature or creative writing—and I liked science, and kids, and my advisor was a Chemistry professor, and there were so few women in science—my odds of finding a guy had to be better as a science major, right? And I did pretty well. I enjoyed most of my classes and enjoyed being the center of attention in a classroom. Life was good—I had no trouble finding a job, moved around the country, and had great fun.
But there was one problem.
That voice inside telling me that I should be writing never went away.
I sporadically journaled through my twenties and thirties, through a bad starter marriage and through the decision to become a single mom by choice. (Which means I deliberately decided to have a child even though I was not in a relationship at the time.) The voice whispered, and I indulged it occasionally. By this time I had gone to law school and started practicing law, so I had opportunities to write, and had a little confidence because I took right to legal writing.
And then I got cancer when I turned thirty-seven, as a single mom by choice to a not-quite two-year old. That voice started shouting—YOU NEED TO WRITE A BOOK! Those were essentially the first words I wrote in a brand-new journal a month after my diagnosis.
This time I kept journaling. I did writing exercises. And I actually filled a journal, for the first time in my life. I never wavered in my desire to write.
Part of it was that I was worried that I wouldn’t survive for very long. I was desperate to leave something for my daughter to help her understand who I really was, if it turned out that I died before she was old enough to remember me. I was frantic about collecting and printing the posts I made to online groups and to a treatment-updates blog I set up.
But that wasn’t all. Time passed. I had my two-year anniversary of being diagnosed, then my three-year, which, for the subtype of breast cancer I had, were big anniversaries. Then I hit my five-year anniversary, in 2010. I was still here.
And I still wanted to write. I started researching a historical novel, then taking writing classes. I realized I needed to write a memoir to work out all of my own “stuff” before really working on the novel. I wrote every day, first thing in the morning, for six months straight, the first part of 2012.
I’m still practical enough to know that I need to pay the mortgage, and have health insurance, and flexibility, and I need to basically feel that I’m doing some good in the world for my day job. And I’m lucky to have all of that.
But, the whole point of this introduction is that, whatever that internal imperative is telling you—do it. There will never be a better time. If you have a dream—something you’ve always wanted to do but were afraid to—life is too short to let that go unrealized. You are the only person who knows what it is, but I’ll bet that you have some idea. Think about it. Journal. Meditate. Pray. Whatever works to help you figure out what will feed your soul.
I am a writer.