While the scant eight posts I’ve made have eluded to this fact, I feel the need to proclaim to my readers early on that I am, at the core of my soul, a writer. Or, more accurately, I am a storyteller. Saying you are a writer implies that you earn your living putting words to paper. While I have, indeed, earned money for my writing skills, it is not my primary source of income. I do strongly believe, without pause, that I am a storyteller. I feel there is a tremendous importance to telling stories and there is an affinity I feel towards people that make it their life’s work to tell stories: writers, directors, performers, illustrators, cinematographers and the list goes on. I have assumed several of those roles in my lifetime and, if dreams were to come true, I would earn my living by being one or more of them.
I come from a lineage of writers. My paternal grandfather was a disciplined writer. From what little I’ve been told of his early years, his service in World War II was as a correspondent of sorts. After his service, he was an English professor and, as my father likes to tell it (with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek), my grandfather would write every day. His regimen was so rigorous that he would write only a specific number of words each day, no more, no less, even if it was mid-sentence. I asked my mother about this and she scoffed at that assessment, scoffing, I’m sure, because it came from my father and she believes that recollection is tainted marital discord or the fact that my father has a selective memory.
My father, also a writer, raised me from the age of six onward. He, too, was an English professor. He also identifies himself as a writer. To the best of my knowledge, he has published a book of poems and has had several of his plays produced but, truth be told, he is no more a writer than I am.
My father’s father was also a writer of sorts. Perhaps not a writer with a capital “W” but he had the critical element of discipline nailed. He kept journals for years. Every morning, as part of his routine, he wrote in his journals before he attended to the tasks of the day, which are still a little elusive to me.
I am 45 years old. My father is 70. My grandfathers are dead. As I see it, I am the only one that stands a chance to make a living as a writer/storyteller. Since I think 90 is a reasonable age to die, I am going to presume that I have half my life yet to live. Since the last 20 or so years of my life will likely be encumbered by illness or some other old-age malady, I think it’s safe to say that I have roughly 25 years to become a writer. A writer with a capital “W.” One that makes their living putting stories on paper.
When my mother left, my father was teaching and, as best I can tell, was in the prime of his writing career. So, there he was, a promising writer in the 70s, abandoned by his wife and left to care for two very young girls. Over the years I’ve heard several excuses for why his writing career never took off, including having to care for me and my sister, having to deal with his alcoholic wives, having to pay the bills, having to take his mother-in-law to the hairdresser, having to fill in the blank.
I love my father. I do. However, I can see the writing on the wall and I want to erase it. I want to take a gallon of Oxy Clean and wipe it away before it is written. I don’t want to be the one to say, “I could have written the great American novel if it weren’t for the fact that I have three kids, a chronic illness, a mortgage and an affinity for martinis.” Hemingway had all those things and he did it, why can’t I? Oh, wait, he shot himself. Maybe not the best example. But at least he won the Nobel Prize before ending it all. The point is that I don’t want to blame my lack of fortitude on anyone or anything. Instead, I want to push through it.
Writing is a discipline. It is easy to find an excuse not to write. From what I gather, the great writers of our time write in the morning, before the follies of the day take hold. Perhaps that is the key. Perhaps I need to stand up while writing. Or apply some sort of “stream of consciousness” exercise to get the juices flowing. Some of my favorite contemporary writers have habits similar to the greatest writers of all time, so there must be something to it, don’t you think?
Can I commit to setting the alarm for 5:00am and write 500-1,000 words before the rest of the household awakens? Tomorrow, I will set my alarm. While it isn’t with the specific task of writing in mind, it will be to head to the city to spend the day in a creative writing workshop and being inspired by art and artists that speak to me.
Tomorrow I am winning. Because tomorrow I will be writing.