Writing Influenced My Life

“I am participating in the Writing Contest: How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life.  Hosted by Positive Writer.”

I’ve always envied those who have always known what path their lives should take.  I admired their focused determination, their unflagging belief and their progression on nothing more than blind faith.  Opinions of naysayers are only a puff in the wind.  They know constructivism when they see or hear it. Those are the cherished puffs.  They do not cower in the face of failure.  It means they got up that day, worked on their dream and are one step closer.  They have found their passion.

There are many like me, who have no clue what to do with their lives.  I was born talentless.  My parents tried sending me to dance lessons, voice lessons, horseback riding and I tried out for the cheerleading team in high school.  I can’t dance, no rhythm.  Can’t sing, the teacher covered her ears.  Apparently, I’m tone deaf.  I’m frightened of horses; they’re so huge.    After high school, I drifted from one hourly job to another going through the motions of life.  Then in my 43rd year I was laid off because I didn’t have a college degree.  To say I was angry would be an understatement.  I enrolled in college the next month.

In one of the classes I took, the homework assignment was to write an 8,000-word story with mystery and theological overtones.  Panic consumed me.  There’s no way I’m going to be able to complete that assignment.  There was a two-week deadline.  I can’t even write a thank you note.  For a moment, I considered hiring someone to write it for me.  Then I thought about how I felt when I lost my job because I didn’t have a college education.  I told myself you’re here to learn, learn.  It came to be one evening I sat down and stared at a blank monitor screen.  How do writers know where to start?  Where do story ideas come from?  I hate mysteries, much less write one.  I went to the public library and asked the librarian to pick out a book for me.  One with mystery and theological overtones, but not overly long because I didn’t have much time.  She picked out a Father Brown mystery for me.  I read it in one sitting.  I loved it.

I had a thought.  What if my story was about a priest, but not one that solves mysteries.  A priest who is the victim of a murder.  Who would want to kill a priest?  Maybe the woman he promised to marry before he got his “calling”.  And just like that ideas started popping into my head like baseballs out of an automatic pitcher.  I went back to my blank monitor and started writing down disjointed ideas as they occurred to me.  To help me, I picked my church so I would be familiar with the setting already.  I had a rough outline the first day.  The next day I fluffed it.  The third day, with trepidation, I asked my roommate for her opinion.  She didn’t laugh.  She had some constructive feedback for me.  And, so, the homework assignment was finally submitted.  I fretted, worried, and became downright nauseous waiting for my grade.  A week later our grades were posted.  I got a B.  I couldn’t believe it.

If someone had said to me, you know, I think you would be good at writing.  You should give it a try.  I would have laughed them out of the room.  My professor wrote a note to me on the homework assignment that I read when I got it back.  He thought I had talent and should pursue it.  I had discovered something I could do.  I did have talent.  Granted a talent that needed grooming.  What a revelation this was for me.

I changed my major to creative writing.  I’ve been in front of a monitor every day since.  I haven’t written the great American novel yet, but I find it very rewarding.  Writing is magical.  A writer manipulates the words in a dictionary into what they want to share with the world.  A talented writer knows which words will make you cry, which will make you laugh.  He’ll have you rooting for the underdog who always has a trusty sidekick.  He’ll pour on the tension until you think your heart will stop any second.  If only all of our true-life romances consisted of hero alpha males and beautiful independent women.  And if life is a total bore, a writer is always there to rescue you.  How about a fantasy or maybe a time travel adventure today?

As much as I love creating stories there is another reason why I love writing.  Another talent I’ve always envied is the ability to hold your own in a witty conversation.  I once walked into a BBQ restaurant to place a to-go order.  No one was there, so I helped myself to a menu behind the bar.  As soon as my fingers came in contact with a menu, the errant employee came out from the back room somewhere and confronted me with, “You can’t be here.”  At the time I apologized, but on the way home in the car I thought I should have said, “And yet, here I am.”

When you’re the author, you get the last word.  Always.

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