I wish, like George Orwell, I could say I’d envisioned myself a writer from an early age. However, as far back as I can remember, I feared putting words to paper.
My mom could strike fear in the strongest of men and as a skinny little girl I was an easy mark. Anything written had to survive her harsh scrutiny. To keep my thoughts and words from her, I burned everything I wrote. I took my letters and notes to a big oil drum out back and stayed until the flames consumed them with the household trash. Our home had zero respect for privacy.
I was the oldest of four when at ten, my father died. Life was hard, but many people had a hard life. That’s a story for another time after all this isn’t a coming-of-age memoir.
So why now? Why do I write? I write because my favorite childhood memories revolve around books. As a grieving young girl, I solved mysteries with Nancy Drew, cried with Scarlet, and fell in love with Rhett. Through wonderful stories, I read of battles won, love found and places where all things worked for the common good. Amazing, beautiful, mysterious, and exciting worlds unfolded to a girl steeped in poverty. In a library filled with books, I found refuge.
As an adult, I spun tales of magic for my own children and introduced them to the power of a good story. Still, I never dreamed of writing. The time passed with births, deaths, work, bankruptcy, moves, heartache, and joy. Life happened. Nothing, however, prepared me for the birth of my grandchildren. Filled with love and awe, they made me wish to leave my own words behind so that one day the words they read would be mine.
Thanks to their encouragement, I dipped my toe into the cold water of writing. I started a blog. The blog increased my hunger. So one day, I sat down and released my imagination. Writing freed me to be myself, at least on paper.
Successful? No, I was embarrassed by my first endeavors. The rejections arrived as did my tears. My first acceptance felt as if I’d won the lotto. Why? Not because of the publication. But because of the sparkling shine from my granddaughter’s eyes. Their pride in me, priceless.
My dreams no longer seem unattainable; reaching for the moon I’m touching stars. Some say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I believe the same can be said of success. For me, I’ll measure mine, not in the number of followers, tweets, essays, or stories published, but in the joy reflected in the faces of my children and grandchildren. They keep me motivated to provide good memories. I’ll continue writing one word at a time and sooner or later I’ll write something worth reading.
Why do I write? I write because now I can. After all, everyone has a story to tell.
Originally published at Fiction Southeast December 23, 2014