Writers write. At least, that is what I always thought. A writer is born, not made. From the time he or she can just barely form the letters of the alphabet, there are little sentences, tiny stories.
When I was a child, I read about Jo March writing in her chilly garret, crunching on apples and bending over a candlelit trunk. Anne Shirley also wrote stories and poems from the time she was adopted by Matthew and Marilla. These were fictional writers, but I also knew about Emily Dickinson, Beatrix Potter, the Bronte sisters, et. al., who wrote volumes as they grew up.
It was a given, then, that since I never really entertained stories in my head or kept even so much as a diary, that I was no writer. Apparently I had a “knack” for putting words together, and I took to grammar like a duck to water, but that was all it was. I was a good student. I was organized. I had a big vocabulary, thanks to Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and their ilk.
There were no journals under my bed. No plotlines scribbled on pieces of notebook paper. I didn’t contemplate rewriting the endings of any of the many books I enjoyed. I was never once tempted to write “in the style” of one of my favorite authors. I wasn’t a writer!
I grew up. Got married. I had a career or two, raised two children, and experienced life as we all do: one task at a time. I read some terrific books, and I even enjoyed some trashy ones. But never once did I consider that I write one myself, trashy or not! I wasn’t a writer!
My husband had a stroke, and I struggled to help him recover. The children left home. The dog died. Finally, there was retirement and all the leisure time that accompanied it. Boredom set in. A friend told me about blogging, and I decided it might be fun to start one.
Eureka. At the age of fifty, I discovered that I was, indeed, a writer. Not only did I have a lot to say, but it was the exact right time to begin speaking. It was as if the many strata of my existence were suddenly aligned to form what for me was the foundation of my “real” self. It took me a long time to feel confident as a writer. I never said the words “I am a writer” out loud. Real writers, after all, had been at it their whole lives. Real writers were born to write.
I kept at it because I loved doing it. But that old truism that “writers write” undermined me. Was I legit? It didn’t feel like it. I had no books, no magazine articles, no agent.
All it took was a contest. I had nothing to lose, so with one entry, everything changed. I had years of living under my belt, and I used my own family for inspiration. My age worked in my favor. My entry was recognized.
These days, after more than five years as a blogger and columnist, with one book published, I feel comfortable saying it out loud: “My name is Molly. What do I do? Oh, I am a writer. But I started very late.”
I make it a point to explain. Because writers don’t always write. For many of us, there is a life to live first. Then we begin our life’s work—as writers.