Below is an essay I have written to participate in a writing contest: You Are a Writer held by Positive Writer. The question to be answered is “What led you to becoming a writer?” This is my story.
When I was five my parents moved our family across the world from West Virginia to Tanzania (on the eastern coast of Africa just under the horn). While this was a wonderful way to grow up, it wasn’t one filled with a lot of ready made entertainment. We didn’t have TV, we didn’t have shopping malls, we didn’t have access to very many movies. But we had books. Lots of books. My mom used to read aloud to us as we sat around the fire on cold rainy nights. My dad brought us new books as gifts when he had to travel. Our days were filled with adventures outside, our evenings were filled with adventures in the pages of our books. I mention this, because I believe that good writers are often avid readers to begin with.
I think I was in high school before this love for the written word developed into a love for writing. I was at this time at boarding school in Kenya. One of our extra circular activities was a “coffee house” (in an auditorium where no coffee was served) in which students were given the opportunity to express themselves artistically to an audience of their peers. Most people sang or played an instrument. I began to read bits of poetry I had written, and was adept enough to have them start requesting me for future performances.
I remember a couple of class assignments from those years that excited me in the way they challenged my creativity. While studying Hamlet we were required to write a sonnet with fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. Not being all that academic, the anticipation I had in writing that sonnet was a new experience. I might have imagined the adulations of my teacher much like Ralphie from A Christmas Story did about his essay, except my teacher was Miss Winterberg, the Ice Queen. I don’t remember what I made on the assignment, but I remember the feeling of great accomplishment I had from creating something so Shakespearean. It was exhilarating!
The other assignment that sticks out in my mind was a persuasive essay on any topic we chose. I don’t know what possessed me, but I wrote the entire essay on the importance of changing your underwear every day. It was filled with nuances and innuendo, while never really getting gross or inappropriate. It was quite entertaining to write, and while I knew I was taking a risk handing it in for an assignment, I also knew in my gut that it was well written and imaginative. It helped that my teacher was now Miss Thompson, who in my estimation was much less inclined to off my head. Again, I don’t remember the grade, but I do remember the note saying that while it was creative I had pushed the envelope about as far as I should dare.
I think the key to both these events was the rush I got from the creative process. I loved the sense of having formed something original that was a positive addition to the world. I have a very creative family. Among us are artists and singers and musicians. I sometimes felt as if I had nothing to offer in comparison to very gifted older siblings. In writing, I found my medium of expression. I began to dream of some day writing a book.
And then I grew up. As a wife and a mother, there were years in which I wrote nothing more creative than a grocery list. I home schooled my children, but when it came to teaching them to love reading and writing I felt as if I had failed them miserably. I finally resorted to paying other people to teach them these subjects in high school.
Then one day through a Sunday School lesson about church history I experienced that long lost feeling of an idea that must be expressed in writing. When I finished the rough draft, my gut began to speak to me again, “This is good…” I shared it with my husband who was quite impressed. He began to mark it with his pen and show me places that needed more explanation. And I shrank a little inside. What was he doing with my creation?! But his critiques were spot on, and when I applied the changes, my gut voice got louder, “It’s Good!” This experience kindled the fire in me to write again, but the discipline was not there. I kept putting off the process until something would start to eat at me to be written.
Then my husband had his stroke. And as I began to read what I could find to help me help him get better, I was struck with two realizations. 1) People who write books about successful rehab are people who have been very successful with rehab (that wasn’t us), and 2) maybe they weren’t really telling the whole story. At that point I decided that someone needs to write a book about the people who aren’t all that motivated and raring to get better. Someone needs to reach out to their spouses and caregivers and let them know they are not alone! And maybe that someone needs to be me.