“You see, more than a simple matter of putting down words, writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer.”
- Harper Lee
“Great decisions often take no more than a moment in the making.”
- Hugh Lofting, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
I have always wanted to be a writer. The question that has loomed in my mind for years has been could I be a writer? And my self-imposed response to this day is, “I am trying.”
Growing up, reading was fundamental to my surviving youth. I had a vivid imagination and with that came an insatiable need to explore life and myself through books. Yes, I was incredibly social, too, and loved being with friends, but nothing filled my soul like reading.
I was convinced that Hugh Lofting wrote the Doctor Dolittle stories for me. After all, Dolittle traveled. I loved to travel - once I understood exactly what that meant, I couldn’t go enough. The wanderlust I have today was born in these adventures, and like Dolittle, I wanted to go, to move. I wanted to be a storyteller, interact with people, use words, my hands (I talk with my hands for certain), and my imagination to share what I had experienced. It was indeed, very Dolittle-esque.
Dolittle talked to animals. I fancied talking to animals as a child, both real and stuffed. Didn’t we all, hmmm? They listened, I spoke, and not once did they ever tell me to use an ‘inside voice.’ Not once. I even had a bit of my own language, so anyone who overheard me talking couldn’t understand what I meant. Pretty much the same when I spoke English too in those days. <big smile>
Dolittle was an adventurer. I craved adventure and was convinced that if he would just let me, I could tag along to every obscure location he visited and I would fit right in.
Alas, when reality set in and I figured out that the good Doctor and I weren’t going to be forever companions (and I’d read all the books so many times I could nearly recite them), I moved on to Harper Lee.
By this point in time, I was convinced that Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird just for me. You can see the recurring pattern I had built, right? Now I was Scout - Scout Finch was me. We were both walking paths through the unexplored territories of life. Scout was curious, inquisitive, and always interested in what was going on around her. Seriously, if that wasn’t me I don’t know what was!
I insisted that I get my hair cut like Scout. It was originally a hard “no” from those in charge, aka my parents. But success wasn’t too far away for a person with my determination. Unfortunately, it only happened after I attempted a new hairdo with my own two hands and a rather unsharpened pair of scissors. The results were catastrophic for my parents as they stared in horror, but for me? Well, I achieved the goal, and then with some very professional trimming, Scout and I even looked alike.
Later, as I started understanding more about Harper Lee the author and payed less attention to my friend Scout, I learned she wanted to be an attorney. Originally, that’s where I was headed out of high school before abruptly changing course to pursue English literature. Guess what? Harper Lee had a passion for English lit, too. I loved writing for the school paper. No stretch there. Guess who else did that? Long story short, I was a devoted Harper Lee fan. I loved her writing, her style, her sense of adventure and love of life. In some unexplainable way, we were connected.
Fast forward to present day and yes, a character in a book I have written is named Harper, Harper Thorn. None of this was random, I’m convinced. These are those subliminal meant-to-be things that we can only recognize once the right time in life presents itself. Freakish as that might be, it really does happen.
So you see, I have always been quite comfortable somewhere between the iconic Harper Lee and the incomparable Doctor Dolittle. In the About section of our blog, I wrote that I was a lot like fruit salad. You can go back and reread that part if you want - some assumption here that you read our bios immediately upon coming to the blog. <insert laughter> But in short, it was influenced by a quote from Miles Kington. “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad."
You know fruit salad, right? It's crisp, colorful, and regardless of all being tossed together, each fruit maintains its own individual flavor. This really sums up my mixed bowl of wildly fun and just a bit over-the-top career path. It is very true that a trusted and well-respected colleague of mine once told me that in life I could choose the safe, smooth merry-go-round or the sharp turns and steep slopes of a roller coaster. I really didn’t need a second choice. It was simple. Roller coaster all the way!
For as far back as I can remember, I was always asking questions and seeking answers. I am certain through many years of experience that my inquisitive mind drove everyone I knew close to madness. In some hard to fathom and perhaps quirky way, this has all worked for me. From educator, sales and marketing professional, artist, and nonprofit work, to business consultant, volunteer, and being a writer, I really am quite a fruit salad.
A well-known and published author (and friend) once gave me some solid advice when I asked about the secret to becoming a writer. “To become a writer, you have to write,” she brilliantly stated. You know that love-hate feeling you get when you know someone is right, but because you are finding your way down a new path, you want it to be far more complicated than that? Rhodes Scholar complicated, right? Anything that makes you feel like the reason you didn’t know the answer was because it was incredibly challenging and buried deep in an ancient volume of wisdom! How could it be that simple? Just start writing.
My challenge in the beginning was that I didn’t just want to become a writer; I wanted to become a really good writer. Perhaps even a great writer. I always was a person with lofty goals. LOL. Also, I think a lot of people want to write. Books, articles, blogs (cough)… it’s an interesting level of creativity that is explored by many. Part of me thinks this comes from the belief that human beings are indeed born storytellers. This starts at an early age when we fib about not getting our homework done (the dog ate it), or we tattle on a sibling (Johnny did it)… see? Storytelling is an art form from the get-go.
The problem, if you will, is that we grow up and we become our worst self-editing critics. Once we realize that the frivolity of “the dog ate it” wears off, we are reliant on our own imaginations. And let’s face it, at some point in time when we’re becoming adults, our imaginations start to become less colorful and more programed to fulfill the responsibilities of life. We don’t lose our ability to tell great stories; we just forget how to access that part of our brain because we have become adults. Shakespeare needs editing; to be or not to be an adult should be the new question. That vast wasteland and long trip between childhood and adulthood takes its toll.
So I’ve got this. I’ve taken the leap and I’m writing. I have written. LOL. It’s a bit like assuming a net will be there when you jump and let your fiction, freak-flag, fly! Remember, I’m the one stuck somewhere between Harper Lee and Doctor Dolittle… so I shouldn’t worry, right?
With immense gratitude I say, Blame it on These People - amazing influences on my growth, education, life goals, and stick-to-itiveness in fulfilling my writing dreams. Mrs. Francisco, Mr. Glore, Mrs. Weis, Mr. Ruh, Mrs. Stewart, and Mr. Eaton, thank you! When I had doubts, you believed I could talk to animals. You supported my travels and spent hours listening to me chatterbox my way through stories of adventure. When I wanted to be a lawyer, you thought I could argue any case like Atticus Finch. And when I wanted to be a writer, you actually cheered and said you believed I could do it… and you wanted me to.
I know wherever you are, you would be proud of my fruit salad of accomplishments. I still don’t have all of the answers -wink- but I’m not done figuring it out. As to the question of being a writer, you’ll have to judge. Somehow, someway, I believe you’ll let me know what you think.