The Art of Writing
Fall has arrived -melancholic, transitional, deeply beautiful as it gently paves the way for the arrival of it’s handsome, sleepy cousin, Winter
As part of this reflective season, I have been thinking about who I am or ...what I am? It’s a weighty question and not an easy one. I would much much rather be eating cheesies on the cozy chesterfield, wearing oversized and mismatched flannal pyjamas, absent-mindedly googling "how to create a smoky eye effect" but here we are. It’s time. Time to ask the big questions.
There is a video online, a TED talk hosted by the indomitable Elizabeth Gilbert. Within seconds of launching into her dialogue, she says, "I am a writer." Four mighty words. When I watch this video, I replay this opening line with abandon; this proclamation to the world over and over. Her proclamation stirs me.
Why does this simple little line generate such a potent response within me? It's pretty simple. I would like to be able to identify in the same way without explanation, to unabashedly stand on top of the Easter Cove Hill or on the Corner or maybe even at the Top of the Cross and sing out "I am a writer!" Yes, my pronouncement would end with an exclamation mark.
Now this may seem a little odd to you. Of course you can say that about yourself, you might think. You write these blogs. You must be a writer.
I remember once asking a group of children to raise their hand if they saw writing as a potential career. One little hand rose up, attached to a quiet voice that said "I’d like to be a writer on the side but I would have to have a real job, too." Just like his timid little girl, I grew up in a world that encouraged and celebrated industry and profit and accolades. Not the stuff of writing unless you are Margaret Atwood or Stephen King.
For most of my life I have wanted to be a writer. As a student of Ms. Catherine E. Nash is in grade 6 I wrote a book, using a Sears typewriter, about being an astronaut and dedicated it to Nanny and Poppy. In grade 8, at Fatima Central High, Bon Fagan awarded me a flowery compact for a poem I had written. Later in high school, Hubert McGrath introduced me to Wuthering Heights. Kay King hosted a lunchtime writing group called "The Society of Literary Enthusiasts (SOLE)." And of course, there was Pat Nash…quietly encouraging creativity and imagination...and good grammar!
I wrote voraciously; unwieldy poems about teenage heartbreak, unconventional essays that somehow tied together the purchase of our new washer with the Greek goddesses and short stories on everything from killicks to Jordache jeans. I dried my hair while reading the dictionary. I craved words.
Fast forward to university when the work of real life was duly scheduled to begin. It was 1994- just two years after the cod moratorium when we were all feeling like the world had ended. Uncertainty circled us like a mystical fog. I was going to be a physicist. Then I was going to be a doctor. I became a social worker.
At no point did I say that I wanted to a writer.
But I wanted to be. Always.
I can still feel the thrill of my first English course at MUN. My professor was dynamic, fiery and unpredictable. She struggled with my continuous misuse of the apostrophe but encouraged us to write anything, everything. The physics and chemistry courses I was doing that semester paled in comparison to her class. At the end of the semester, I visited this charismatic woman to say thank you and she was sitting at her desk enjoying a half of Black Horse. I was enthralled.
Looking ahead to the university years, moving home with my beloved to my beloved Branch and the pen – not the keyboard – has rarely left my hand.
Five years ago, you joined me on a journey through this blog that allowed me to rekindle my love for writing. Initially developed to create space for a handbook on living in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, it really became a repository for all of my thoughts and ideas, quirky, serious and everything in between. There have been blogs on basketball, unruly clotheslines, buns vs. cakes, gratitude, Jesus. Branch has been mentioned about 20 000 times.
Quite possibly the time has come to press "pause" on the art of staying.
And I am following what you might call a hunch but what I can’t say a Holy Spirit Moment – all caps. HSM.
Within the span of 24 hours, these two messages arrived via email and they arrived with the subtlety of a dump truck with bad brakes.
Sorry but we will not be able to publish your children’s book.
2. Our platform is changing and you will have to change your blog format by December 1st.
There are two ways to look at this. First, I could sling my pen and notebook into the Gut. Or second, I could choose to see this as a sign that there is indeed a new plan on the horizon.
I’m going with the second one.
I do not say this because I am defeated. Only because I am feeling a little… enlightened?
While I place my blog and the story of Mr. Dick English and his musical encounter with a little fairy on hold, I am hoping to sit and do what every writer aspires to at some point… I hope to write a novel.
It sounds so sexy, doesn't it? Something you might say while sitting at a downtown café bedazzled in sneakers and dress pants, drinking herbal tea, ears casually adorned by feathery earrings. But the time has come
Yes, I am writing a novel. About a girl in West Virginia. Whose life is complicated. Whose mother works at the airport and would love to see the world. Who has a brother named Franz Josef. Whose faith in God is palpable. Whose life in Appalachia is haunted by want but anchored by hope.
On the long winter nights to come, I hope to spend time with this family in West Virginia, detangling and weaving their stories.
Until then, though, I hope to contract "blog fever", covering topics as close to home as our adoption and as far away as the American election.
This is an exercise in hope, dear readers. Because yes, I hope to have the courage someday to raise my hand and say "I am a writer."