A tall order, to be sure, since, for many of us in the profession and industry, writing is something we've always known we had to do, something we were driven to do, something for which the words passion and devotion aren't enough as descriptors and for which the word obsession just barely lands in the running as an indication of what writing is to us.
I was eight years old when I knew I had to write.
I can't even say that I was eight when I "realized I wanted to be a writer when I grew up," because that simply doesn't do the revelation justice.
It was more like being slammed into the ground, forty and fifty and sixty feet down and still falling, through and past everything I thought I had figured out about the world and my place in it (which, of course, as a second-grader, I thought was quite a bit) into a place of utter chaos, movement, color, motion ... and of total stillness, silence, bated breath in the eye of the storm.
I'm still falling.
Those first tentative words I penciled onto a white page, plaintive in their telling the love story of a magician and a princess, convinced me: I was a writer, made and designed and called to write, and it wasn't just a verb, not just something I'd spend time doing (although I do). Instead, it was an identity, a whole new mode of being.
I am writer.
With the knowledge, I didn't have to try to sort out life and its up and downs apart from my writing, as someone who stood there and took whatever life threw at her without a response.
I had a way to respond.
When my brother was diagnosed as on the autism spectrum, I wrote. When my mother suffered miscarriages, I wrote. When I gained two younger sisters, I wrote. When my beloved cat died, I wrote. I wrote in public school and as a homeschooled student. I wrote first thing in the morning, through lunchtime, and late, late at night. I wrote as a musician, as an artist, as a scholar, as a journalist, as an historian. When I traveled with my family, the first thing I packed was a spiral-bound college-ruled notebook and five or six pens (you never knew when one might die on you in the middle of a tremendous story idea).
Being a writer is not like being an instrumentalist. (In case you wondered.)
I've been a musician almost my entire life; there are pictures of me as a toddler "playing" my grandmother's piano with my bare toes (a feat I've never once been able to replicate). The piano remains my favorite instrument to this day, though I'm also a cellist and a vocalist, among other things.
Still, when you sit down to play the piano, you invite beautiful music out of the instrument; the strings inside and the network of keys are the conduit through which the music comes. There's something inordinately safe about hiding away behind a piano, knowing that if I press middle C (with any luck and a good piano tuner!) I will always hear middle C.
As a vocalist, I have no such luxury. My voice is the instrument, bound up inside me. I am the instrument. It's innate and beautiful and horrifying all at once, that when I open my mouth to sing, I never know precisely what's going to come.
Writing is like being a vocalist.
You sit down at a blank page, or stand before an audience, and open your mouth or a vein and bleed your soul onto the page or into the air. There's no way to know what will come when you take that risk.
Writing, like singing, is a risk. It's imperfect, imprecise, complicated, overwhelming, stunning, uncertain, powerful, frightening, and entirely worth it.
How about you? How has writing had a positive impact on your life?