I first discovered I loved to write when I was about seven years old. My sister and I were housebound and arguing on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Our father called the two of us into his office where he was correcting high school English papers. He handed us each a pad of paper and a pen and said “Write a story”.
This ignited something in me, something not yet accessed as a young child. I always had a vivid imagination and was content to let my mind wander for hours. But on this rainy day so many years ago, I would make up a story-any story I wanted- and write it down. And someone would read it. This was exciting to me. This was fun. I remember the feel of the large pad in my hands, the sight of the blue ink in my second grade penmanship, the poignant moment of learning I love to write.
About two years later, I was thrilled to sit in front of my fourth grade classroom reading my own made up addition to the Bobbsey Twins series. Then as pre- teen, I kept a journal that I addressed to my deceased grandfather. Not Dear Diary or Dear God, but Dear Grandfather. In a moment of sibling torment, my sister had grabbed the diary out of my hands and was confused by what she read. How could I explain? He was the only dead person I knew, and I thought he could be my connection to the divine. I believed that I could somehow write my way above my young girl angst, and in some way I did.
Still it never occurred to me to study writing in college. It seemed an elusive dream, something I hadn’t even named. So I became a teacher and did that for a few years with some enjoyment. But I was more interested in who the children were than in what they could do. How did they see this sensory world that was still so new to them? What were the stories they told themselves?
My daughters were born and I could hardly believe I had helped create these interesting, beautiful creatures. Never before had something held my attention so fully and fill my heart to overflowing as motherhood. And over the course of this long adventure, I studied health, and meditation and yoga and world religions and gained a master’s degree in Holistic Ministries. I devoured others’ words, which reignited some more writing, this time with some publication, but it was all very tentative. When I held my file box of notebooks, where I used to keep my writing drafts, my heart would catch with anticipation of the stories in progress. It was as if the box held my longing, a gift. More years passed and I have so much to say now, and still so much to learn, that writing helps me discover.
There is an ancient Japanese verse: “One inch in front of you is total darkness”. Don’t worry about the future. Focus on what you have to do today. Take that step. Then the next. For me, the steps have brought me back home to my writing.
When it comes to remembering what you love, I think the question, “what did you love to do when you were eight or ten?” is a good one. Before you were knee deep in homework and others’ expectations, before life took hold and dictated your trajectory, spewed its opinions, shook some common sense into you, made you obedient and practical, what did you love? What makes your heart catch? One inch in front of you is total darkness. Each step lights the way.