I used to be a writer, someone paid to write. I fell into this great bit of luck by compete twist of fate. I had moved overseas to live with a good friend who had a house that needed sitting and taking care of. He traveled a lot and he wanted the house to feel more alive. He also loved me and liked my writing and so he thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to write. I had studied creative and script writing when we’d lived in Boston together. Then he moved back overseas and I went on my merry way totally unsure of where I was going. Only that I was going to write.
With this goal, a year after graduation I was happily penning away at every opportunity. I’d had a pretty good creative run in college. It was only normal to keep writing at every chance, down every turn. Then a bad break-up came and I needed a change. I needed to get out of Boston and so, after a few more bumps, I moved to Amsterdam, completely unaware of its reputation as a wild drugged out prostitute metropolis.
How I’d missed that bit of information is a mystery. I can only say that my friend was my guide and he didn’t talk about that stuff. He talked about the rich history, the farmer language, the planned layout and the canals, the Dutch way of life. He talked about what it was like to be gay in such a city. He talked about the flower markets and the bridges, the art and the Jordaan, his neighborhood. He talked about how we needed each other. So I went and met his band of friends. I met a man I instantly loved.
I was fairly despondent when I landed at Schiphol that late summer. The last thing I needed was a romantic relationship, but I did need friendship and my new Dutch acquaintance offered it. We became what you would call friends if you closed one eye, slanted your head and turned around three times. I wrote him often across the few miles of cobblestones that separated us, him in his office and me at my new dining room table, laptop balanced on my knees. For one reason or another (pretty good reasons too), most people who knew us didn’t think our friendship a good idea. Electronically, we enjoyed a semi-secret ever-going conversation that no one could touch or judge.
Then he had a friend who worked in a creative office shared with a guy who was running a magazine. That guy needed a writer immediately. This guy told that guy and that guy told my complicated friend. He showed them some of the creative writing I had sent him and voila, I was asked to come down for an interview. I met the magazine guy and he passed a stuffed binder into my hands. It was a messy press release with someone’s notes. He said, go ahead, write the story. If we like it, we’ll talk more.
So I wrote the story and there began my time with a business travel magazine, called Executive Class. I Googled it today and there’s little information. I wonder if Siebe is still running the place but somehow I doubt it. He had much broader ambitions. And me? My experience there and why I left are subject for another time.
What’s important to me here is remembering that first break, how it was to get assignments, how it felt to pull together a story, and the satisfaction of typing the last word. I always felt a sense of accomplishment seeing my byline, even with the articles I had to write, the ones that didn’t go so well. I wrote for other magazines as well but never a big one. I thought that would come. But then life came, and sidetracked me. It’s been an amazing ride the past ten years, this life. But it has not included being published.
What it has included are many long nights when I could not stop typing although my eyes burned. It has included readings and writing groups. It has included polish, polish, revise, revise, and when in god’s name is this book going to be finished? This past ten years have included a lot of short stories and poetry, and sweeping rushes of hours diving into a work of fiction, that labor of love most of us writers long to offer.
I haven’t minded the loneliness too often. A writing life is at least half solitude. But I have grappled with the choices that took me away from the published path. I often left with much regret, wishing I had room for more than family and making ends meet. But I chose to be a wife and a mother and I can’t say I’d choose differently if given the chance again.
I can say that the need sometimes grows so great that it spills over and then I have to return, the prodigal daughter. I come back hat in hand, humbled, needing to make this part of me. Although I’ve been away, it is home. This voice inside, these stories inside root me. They also need me. I wonder how many other writers dream of their characters, hear them calling, sometimes begging to be known. I know some do. I’ve shushed the pleas and said I’m sorry many a time. Yet I’ve had unshakable faith that I would come back to them, come back to the printed page that the mill of my mind churns, turns and forms.
Is this place worth the pain? I know it’s one of the most difficult—unmapped and arduous and tricky. Even if I’m capable of exquisite bouquets of words, my inventions are only as good as their capacity to touch others. Touching others is my greatest desire.
I look out at the sea of writing and wonder how this fire in my gut can find its way into the world. How can something as beautiful and as ferocious as a fire go unheeded? Twists of fate happen to me every day, but no one has knocked on my door in a while asking me to write.
Yet it’s my duty to pull the words from the concealment of my skin and convey them. That’s the true charge given to writers. I must orchestrate the voices and the stories chiming in my head. But then I have to find a way to share them. How many writers can make this 180 degree turn from solitude to extroversion? Shake hands and say hello, be present when mind wants to be dreamy.
The writer in me needs to emerge again and so I write this blog. To strengthen my voice. To let myself know that I am serious. To acknowledge my need. And finally to say, I can do this. Little by little, hopefully my voice will unify into words that carry far. And someone will ask me again to write.
Thank you to all of the other bloggers out there like,
, whose journeying that I’ve read. You inspire me. You, who planned a night of revisions but were called to tend a sick family member, you, who got pulled back by that trickster depression; you, who didn’t even realize that you forgot where you were going. Then there’s you, who finds a way to write those hours you should be washing dishes or making an extra couple hundred bucks. I send a prayer to the muses that our feet keep guiding us home, and that our sweat and tears and uncountable hours are rewarded.