Sunday, January 20, 2013

Could I Write a Book?

For me, writing has always come out of living a fairly to-the-bone kind of life, just really being present to a lot of life. The writing has been really a byproduct of that. - Alice Walker

I've been writing most of my life. True story. It's a natural part of who I am; a piece of myself I've kept hidden from the outside world until the last few years. Basically, as long as I've been thinking I've been writing.

I wrote my first real "piece" in 2nd grade. It was a book (I say "book" because I not only illustrated it, but it was haphazardly bound together with some staples) titled "The Year of Two Santas". Now, I'll admit, I may have slightly plagiarized this title from a certain Christmas special that featured two brothers who reeked havoc on the weather in an attempt to ruin Christmas because Santa wanted the year off. But my idea was my own, even though it slightly resembled the dichotomy of a gift giving Santa and the gift stealing Grinch. All of this is beside the point. At the end of the day, I, a mere 7 year old writing prodigy, wrote a book about a nice Santa and a mean Santa and how they fought to the near death over how Christmas was gonna go down that year. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly, what the full story line was, but you can surmise from the title, it was brilliant.

Once my book was illustrated and bound, I was given the privilege of walking down the hall at Chadds Ford Elementary School to the kindergarten classrooms and read my story to a room full of children much, much younger than myself. I mean, they couldn't even spell yet.

And a writer was born. I continued to write throughout my youth; in cringy worthy diaries and occasional creative writing assignments. In middle school, I wrote something (what, I have no idea) that earned me a honorable mention in another "bound publication".

I've saved most of it, although lately, the thought of burning some of it (especially the diaries) has crossed my mind. Because let's face it....those diaries can contain some scary, scary shit.  The fact that I would put pen to paper and record my deepest darkest secrets of adolescence is simply put, insane. I look at my own child, nearing the tween years and wonder to myself, what if he struggles with all of those angst filled questions I did? What if he acts on those impulses and feelings like I did? Worst of all, I think, what if he found them and read them? Good thing (and bad thing) that I'm not exactly sure where they are.

I continued my love affair with writing in college, preferring papers to tests. Ask me a question and I'll write you an answer. Tell me to dissect an idea and I'm with you. Ask me to guess between 4 answers and it was a crap shoot. My senior year at Neumann College, I was one of 12 people in the Psychology program. We didn't take tests. We wrote. And I thrived. Just like a real writer, I poured myself into my papers. I really tried to figure out how the mind (not the brain) processed trauma. I actually came up with my very own theory and nearly peed my pants having to get up in front of the class to present it. My senior thesis started out with the question "Why could you beat your kid in the 1950's and it not be abuse but now it is?" and ended up being a critical analysis of what constitutes childhood historically dating back to the 1600's. I handed it in once and had it returned to me by my professor with the following feedback: "It's good enough for me but it's not good enough for you." And when my masterpiece was finally done, I let my friend John Forte read it. His feedback: "This is amazing. Not a single split infinitive." I didn't even know what a split infinitive was at the time. I'm still not 100% clear.

After college, my writing went largely dormant. Life happened. Every once in a while, I would put pen to paper but honestly, my ex-husband (not Stephen) was not very supportive of me exploring my mind so I didn't. At least not by writing. I always thought. I'm a thinker. He may have made me feel dumb for writing but he couldn't stop me from thinking. And writing for me was just thinking on paper. Going back to grad school helped get me back in a writing frame of mind but honestly, you try writing with a 2 year old yelling your name every 2 minutes. Although, I will toot my own horn for a moment and tell you that I did win $100 in a writing contest in which I was charged with explaining what Kennett Square meant to me in 500 words or less.

And then it happened. Everyone knows. My brother died (Insert shock but in reality just sarcasm). There was absolutely no other way for me to process that other than to write about it. And I did. Alot. And because I was in shock and devastated and oozing with grief, rather than hiding it in a diary or the hard drive of my computer, I hit share and let it out into the universe.

I look back on that decision (which was really more of a reflex) and think it has been as much of a blessing as a curse. On the upside, it opened the flood gates. I didn't believe I could ever get over (at least not to the extent that I have) losing my brother, or my mother. I credit hitting that share button over and over with that. That and a lot of crying and laughing. Which I must say, is a must. On the downside, it opened the flood gates. Many many times, just prior to hitting that share button, I questioned myself. Am I doing the right thing? Is this too much? Are people sick of it?

One thing I have learned about writing is that if you don't question yourself, you aren't doing it right. The other thing I've taken from all of this is that a single "like", public or even private message telling you to keep going, will, well, keep you going. And it has.

So, could I write a book? I'm not sure. Not unless Santa is involved. Then, it's a no brainer.