I was recently asked if I remembered the place where I first wrote and what I felt.
The setting I remember well. My dad had scrounged up a heavy desk with sticking drawers in plain wood. Someone painted it white. Probably my mom. I drew green leaves twining all over the face of it, imagining ivy draped over the drawers and wrapped around the handles. Reality didn’t match imagination.
I’d been writing stories for some time by then and was about twelve when the desk showed up. The previous stories had been carefully written on a Big Chief pad. Those over sized, extra wide lined pages those of us from a certain generation learned cursive on. The paper wasn’t white for some reason, but an odd brownish beige. Those stories, though, were the equivalent of fan fiction. Adventures that I created starring myself and Huckleberry Finn. Or starring myself and Fess Parker as Davy Crockett.
At the white desk, however, I sat down with a pen instead of a pencil, and a stenographer pad. Green paper instead of beige. Narrow ruled. I remember the smell of the wood desk, the bedroom door shut firmly, and me ensconced in the corner. With blank paper and the whole world waiting.
To be honest though, I don’t remember the emotions as clearly. I know there was the strong need for secrecy. There was a sense of shame. There must have been a sense of wonder or joy. There must have been feelings of peace after writing. There must have been something that kept me coming back to the paper and pen but I can’t remember what that was.
It makes me wonder what instilled the belief that what I was doing was wrong, or a waste of time, or something that would be ridiculed if others found out. I didn’t come from a family that would have ridiculed me. My mother told me I would never make a living at writing, but she never told me not to.
So when did I lose that fear of exposure? When did it feel okay to admit I was a writer? In this I mean, okay to let people other than my closest friends know. Mariane, Sue, (over 40 years of friendship and counting) my sister Holly. Not until my 30’s when I confessed to my husband and his excitement and encouragement and belief allowed me to think, maybe I can call myself a writer. He convinced me I could write ‘for real’.
It’s weird to me now, thinking about that question the other night, to realize I only remember shame and secrecy. To me that shows the power of writing. That it courses through you in spite of everything.
What about you? Where did you first write, and what emotions do you remember? For those of you who don’t consider yourself writers, do you remember where you were when you first formed letters and realized you could create words? We’re all writers in one way or another.