Sunday, September 12, 2010

Your Lucky Day

The day you decide to do it is your lucky day.
- Japanese Proverb

It took me over 50 years to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. Although busy as wife, mother, and part-time bookkeeper; my mind soared during my leisure time and for some reason, I had to write down the countless thoughts that flew through my head like birds taking flight.

I wrote hundreds of poems, dozens of essays, and many letters to the editor (that I never sent). I started three books; wrote, edited, and published dozens of newsletters for various nonprofit groups; and even penned a few articles that appeared in local publications.

I researched, wrote, and presented historical programs across the state; received a grant to complete and analyze a community survey; and even spent one year researching and writing a comprehensive report on historic schools for presentation to the state legislature.

But still I didn't think of myself as a writer. If someone had asked me if I was a writer, I would have replied, "No." and meant it sincerely.

My mother questioned why I wrote, and I answered, "I don't know." She asked who wanted all the essays I wrote and I replied, "Nobody, I just have to write them." I'm quite sure my family faked some of their enthusiasm for my writing, but I felt compelled to share it and they felt compelled to listen, which gave me some satisfaction for the hours I spent writing.

In 2004 my interest in writing led me to join a writer's group where I learned more about the craft of writing and even met a few local writers. Although inspired to call myself a writer, I continued feeling too insecure to allow myself to say the words.

A couple of years later a presenter at a writer's workshop made a statement that changed my life: "Writers write, authors publish." Finally the fog lifted and the path to becoming a writer opened wide, beckoning me like the parted sea beckoned Moses and his followers. I jumped in.

I became a writer that very day in September, 2006; and that was my lucky day. My first feature article appeared in the Spokesman-Review on February 3, 2007. Within a month, I gathered the courage to pitch the idea for a column to my editor and was given the green light. My weekly column, "Rathdrum Prairie News" first appeared in March of that year.

The decision to call myself a writer, merely a simple shift in thinking, had given me the confidence to move forward.

In celebration of my column, I sent an email message to my family. One of my sisters wrote back, "Mary Jane, we always knew you were a writer." She reminded me of a writing award my family gave me in 1992 for writing a poem about a family misadventure; and about the tennis shoes she painted for me with puff paints many years ago. Decorated with gold and black pens and pencils, the word "Writer" was written boldly in black puffy paint across each toe.

I guess I was just the last to know.

The day you decide to do it is your lucky day.


Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Good point. I know other writers who were initially hesitant to call themselves a writer, including me. I believe we each have our own idea of what makes a writer and are reluctant to call ourselves such until we feel in line with that image. Love the puff-painted tennis shoes!

Jennifer Rova said...

People who had known me a long time were not surprised when I told them I had taken up writing. They said they always thought I was a good writer meaning I wrote good Christmas letters and emails. The next thing out of their mouths was, "What is the title of your book?"

The automatic assumption that I would write only books is why I am sometimes reluctant to say I am a writer. Thanks for giving me a good response.

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Me, I just want a pair of black-and-gold puffy painted sneakers.