Monday, July 12, 2010

Why I Write

I was in seventh grade. I think. Maybe eighth.

My friend Paula would know. She has a better memory than me. The advantage of not having kids, I guess. You get to keep all the brain cells.

Paula would come over my house and we'd hole up with an overflowing bowl of peanut M&Ms in my bedroom, each of us lying on the matching twin beds. I had a composition book. Not the ones with the black-and-white mottled cover. This was the one with the soft blue cover. The kind I later used in college. It was a state university, so they couldn't afford the hard-covered ones I guess.

We'd write.

Well, I'd write. Paula would add in her ideas. The story? Was about a girl our age. Only she was beautiful and popular - things I wasn't. But wanted to be. So I wrote and wrote about a life I imagined.

I don't know that it had a particular ending. I think we just lost interest (Paula was more popular than me. Boys wanted to kiss her) and the book remained hidden in my closet.

I moved on. I used to spend hours - HOURS - alone in my room, sitting on my red carpet with the threads of pink in it and making up stories in my head.

And that is something I've never told anybody. Because it seems, well, odd. It IS odd, let's face it. I would imagine myself as a character in Battlestar Galactica. Yes I did! I had a huge crush on Apollo (this is the original series, by the way, because I am THAT old) and would create all kinds of scenarios where he was my very cute, very attentive, very mature boyfriend.

It made me feel less alone, I suppose. It gave me a world I could control when my real world felt anything but. Thinking about it now, I wonder why it was all in my head - and not on paper. I mean, I never wrote anything down; the only writing I did was a little journalling.  It's painful to look back at those entries now. Painful. Teenage angst always is, you know?

That I went on to become a journalist - a professional writer, and not just an imaginer - was by chance, but once it happened, I thought, "Of course. What else would I have been?"

A professional journalist. For 16 years. Motherhood eventually ended that career in 2005. I took a course - my first-ever writing course - about memoir soon after. And I found it tough to come up with words on my own. I was used to interviewing other people, to taking their words and weaving them into a story. And the story? Had a specific length. And a deadline.

Creative writing? Not so much. I've started and stopped. Started and stopped. I have several Word documents that contain maybe a dozen paragraphs each.

Four years ago I started my blog. It's been my outlet.

Because I have to write. I do. Yes, I can take a break when life intervenes and I'm too nauseous with morning sickness to look at a computer screen or too busy changing diapers and nursing.

But the reality is, there is something within me that always leads me back. It's part of me. For many years, it defined me.

Now that my kids are past the baby-baby phase, I feel it pulling me once again. I'm finally at the place where I want to stretch my writing wings. I want - I NEED - to put my heart out there.

I want to be 12 again, lying on my stomach on my twin bed with the pink patchwork comforter, kicking my crossed feet up behind me as I fill the pages with my dreams.



  1. I am write there with you. (haha) Although I have never had a career in writing, I've always dreamed of one. People have often told me I need to write a story of my life. I've started that thing probably a million times. But no matter what, I always love writing. I'm the dork in school that actually used to like book reports and papers. I know...weird.

  2. i was that dork too. i even threaten to back to college just so i can buy school supplies.

    great post cheryl!

  3. I remember those days - except I did have that black&white notebook. I always thought I would be a famous writer or artist one day. Ah, to be 12 again!

  4. Pull that story out, dust it off and make it happen now!

  5. I was a journalist too, and the first creative writing class I took was also memoir. I was so overwhelmed. MDQ? Protagonist? Story arc? What the hell is all this?

    Writing was kind of always there, I wrote stories as a kid, have kept journals since I was 12, but it didn't really click until I was in my early twenties that I should make it a career. I think it was a full-on aha! moment. I just woke up one day and realized I should pursue it. It took a lot longer for the confidence to come. And longer still to find my own voice.

  6. Oh!!! I know that story... it is so close to my heart... I went through the same phase maybe a bit different.... but nonetheless the same... No body ever told me that i wrote well... that i could become a writer someday....and today things have become so on the contrary... i guess life gives chances to live those missed opportunities all over again

  7. Mommy's Sippy Cup - I know what you mean about starting, and then...starting again.

    Ericka - DORK! ;)

    Gina - There's still time to be those things!

    Pamela - I have NO idea where that story is now. It probably got thrown away when my parents sold the house. It was not great literature. Trust me.

    Lindsay - Ah, voice. That will definitely be a post topic in the future.

  8. Ratz - You can be a writer - today!

  9. I agree. I have so many things I want to say, they keep me up at night. I want to say "I am a writer," but what stops me? I write, that should be enough, shouldn't it?

  10. I was also that daydreaming girl in my room making up my own happy endings. I put many of my stores down on paper, but never had the confidence that anything would come of them - so when the story was done, it went out with the trash. Gasp. I'e since learned not to do that!

    Definitely pull out those paragraphsm those snippets of imagination - and revisit them. You never know where an idea may lead until you write it.

    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

  11. I loved this! I think as writers we all have had the need to write and make up stories since we were little. I always loved writing in school. In my house writing wasn't considered a serious job that you could actually support yourself doing. So I got a serious job instead of pursuing writing. That writing itch never left though. It's time to scratch it. :)

  12. Empress: You ARE a writer. It's like me with running. I ran a freaking marathon and still could not bring myself to call myself a Runner. Oh no - a RUNNER is someone who is fast, who's good, who's got that whip-thin build. Me? I was just someone who runs. I had to get over it because I AM a runner! There. I said it. Felt pretty good!

    Paula - How you remember that..and WHY we picked that name - I'll ever know.

    Deborah - You threw them out? ACK!

    Jessica - Yay for scratching that itch! I think my parents liked that I was a writer. Then again, any career that paid my own rent and bills they were likely to support ;)

  13. I thought I was the only one who wrote collaboratively in notebooks with their best friends. We would pass the notebook between each other and add to it, each in our own handwriting, but mine was always the longest sections...

  14. Jess - nope, you were totally NOT the only one!

  15. I wrote all sorts of stories... I was homeschooled through 8th grade, and would imagine what it was like to go to school, be in the "in" crowds"... I wish I still had the stories (though I'm sure they're painfully embarrassing!!) but like you, I keep coming back to writing. It's a good thing :)

  16. I totally wish I could see my story! Interesting that you were home schooled, btw. I never knew anyone who was. I mean, NOW I do, but I don't know any adults.

  17. Great post! I also had a "Paula", she was my sister, ugh!! You do need to bring that story back out.

  18. Paula and I had a lot of fun doing it way back when..

  19. This is such a great post. I still remember the first story I ever wrote. I called it "The Lonely Shamrock," and it was about a little shamrock who lost his family and wandered the forest feeling sad until he found a whole colony of other shamrocks.

    Hmmm...I suspect I was the

  20. Lisa - you poor lonely shamrock! ;)

    Michele - glad you are finally coming out of the closet here! Wait, that didn't quite come out right.. ;)

  21. I love this! I love this! You practically plagerized (j/k) my About Me page (except for the fiction part - fiction terrifies me. And the bit about nursing. Flunked that job.)

    What a fabulous idea. I wish I had been in town when this all started, but I'm here now. I want to play, too!

  22. Hi Cheryl:

    a) Nothing beats the original BG series, nothing
    b) I was at home too...not to be kissed until I was 18!!! And then it may have been an accident!
    c) I remember being about 12 or 13 dreaming about the future...when it all seemed so tantalizing...especially when I lay on the hill at the side of our house looking up at the clouds...and I agree some of those days were so delicious, it would be wonderful to go back.

    Lovely post -

  23. Adelle - Glad you're back from vacay and can join us! Sorry about stealing your stuff ;)

    Swati - I sense we may be kindred spirits!

  24. Cheryl sorry I'm such a slacker with the comments, but this is amazing, as are you. Love what you write.

    I was journaller extraordinaire, but never EVER trusted myself to try fiction. Even in my MAJOR in COLLEGE when we had to write fiction, I had to resort to drinking to write what had to be submitted for passing. And no, there weren't even any grades, I was just that anxious about it anyway.

    So this Club of yours is going to be my FIRST OFFICIAL EFFORT. Can promise there won't be any angst.


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