Monday, January 25, 2010

You Can Do It

I started reading when I was four years old, according to my mother. I remember proving to a young uncle that I could read by challenging him to bring home something from school that I had never seen before because he said I wasn't reading, I was simply memorizing and repeating. He obliged by providing me with "Green Eggs and Ham," which I had never heard of and which I proceeded to read to him. He was wrong. I could do it.

Once I learned to write, which was prior to kindergarten, I was on my way to what would be my world. That would be a place of language, thoughts, and ideas. A place in the head, as it were, and on paper.

My teachers encouraged me. "You will be a writer," each said, from the second grade on. I didn't know what that meant but it sounded good, and like something they admired.

As I grew older, though, this ambition became something of a hindrance. Teachers encouraged me in other areas. "Go to college," they advised. "Be a teacher, a professor, a scientist."

My mother, in particular, was not keen on my being a writer. "You better take secretarial courses so you can support yourself," she warned. "You can't make a living off of words."

I should have studied to be a journalist from the outset, but circumstances kept me from that. Instead, I set out to prove them wrong in other ways. In 1985, when I was 22, I finally found my stride with newspaper writing. My first published piece outlined an apple-butter making event at a church in Eagle Rock. "Making Shiloh Apple Butter" came out on a fall day and I picked up the paper at Mike's Market in Daleville. I danced around the parking lot while I waited on my mother to pull in for her daily stop for milk and bread as she drove home from work. I practically shoved the paper up her nose in my enthusiasm to show her the piece.

"See, I can do it!" I said.

In the newspaper archives, one can see that after that first article, I began writing one feature a week. I was employed elsewhere and attending Hollins College, but I found time to interview and write these articles.

My byline has been in The Fincastle Herald for 25 years.

I kept writing newspaper articles and occasionally published a poem or a short story. At Hollins, certain professors encouraged me to write, to spread my wings, to grow in new directions.

In 1993, I decided to try to freelance full time. This was not a financial decision or even a smart one, really. But I have never regretted it.

I proved the naysayers wrong. While I may not have earned significant sums of money, it was enough. I have been happy with my life and with my life's work, and what else matters?

And now we come to it. The stars changed, and again I hear the voices saying, "You can't do it." Part of me even believes this, for I have heard it for so long.

But another part of me says, you will prove them wrong. And that's the part I want to listen to, the whisper that sends shivers down my spine.

For writing is like breathing; it is something I do as naturally as I blink my eyes or lip my lips. I write my thoughts here in this blog, on pages that never see the light of day, and in articles that are meant for the eyes of all. I write my life and I write about the lives of others, using the appropriate turn of phrase, the right touch of empathy, or the slant that brings tears.

Not everything I write is golden; I have been at this long enough to know about 80 percent of it is like compost. It's the food and fodder for the better words, the higher sentence structure and the greater good. Editing until the words glow like neon on the mountain takes time, thought and attention.

Even as I write blog posts, jotted down in the software's editing program, I go back, reread, make a change here or there. I know these words are not pristine, but I also don't mean for them to be. Sometimes the rough edginess is necessary, when the goal is to let loose the dream.

Writing allows me to connect, to teach, to share and to learn. Words give me insight into others and opens up possibilities. I may sputter and choke when I try to speak, but give me pencil and paper and a little time and what comes out will provide you with the answers to the questions asked of me.

Some days, writing seems as distant as the farthest mountain. It moves like a shadow in the mist of my mind and my weak grasp sends the words slipping like a landslide on the other side of a great divide that I cannot cross.

Other days, it is a hug enveloping me, coddling me, loving me and giving me warmth and friendship that goes so deep that my eyes well with tears. Some days, writing is a miracle.

To the naysayers, I say, "A pox on you." My work is not yet done.

6 comments:

  1. *BIG APPLAUSE*

    My theory is they think if they keep repeating the same tired mantra enough times us dopey writers will eventually believe it. I say hogwash too!

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  2. A great post. Thanks for writing it. Granted only a few hundred (if I remember correctly) make big money at writing, but nonetheless they do. If they can, maybe we can, too.

    Granted that there are more good books than publishing slots, but many books are still getting published. If they can, maybe our books can get published, too.

    It's time to write your book, Anita. The world is waiting for it.

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  3. A great post! Don't doubt yourself. Writing is what you do because you are a writer. Prove all the naysayers wrong.

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  4. Great post! Here! Here! Or should that be Hear! Hear!

    Anyway, thanks for the wonderful words.

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  5. You've been on a roll, lately, from what I've seen. Keep it coming. Great things are in the air, I can feel it!

    Planning a re-emergence myself soon, just haven't decided on the right forum. Revive the old blog? Start a new blog? A book? I don't know, but there are so many possibilities!

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  6. You were born to write, that is for sure!

    "You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try.” Beverly Sills

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