I fell in love with words when I was four years old. I clearly remember hunkering down on the living room rug with a sheet of my father’s tracing paper. I placed the paper over the words in a Little Golden Books story, and began to trace. I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a writer. My parents thought I was just being “cute.” Little did they know.
I wrote my first “book” with a friend when I was in fourth grade; it was called “The Adventures of Katie and Lonna Tile,” an illustrated (and much shorter) takeoff on the Nancy Drew mysteries to which we were addicted at the time. Later, I produced a community newspaper called “The Gillespie Street News” on my father’s typewriter (above). I believe I sent out all of two issues. But from there I moved on to writing plays for my grade school, and in junior high, high school and college I took journalism and creative writing, and always wrote for the school newspapers. I went from there to being a newspaper reporter, then a magazine editor, and last—but not least—a freelance writer. Since the age of four, I have never stopped writing (my voluminous journals are yet further proof).
I don’t usually write about writing, because, well, writing is what I do, it’s not what I write about. But reading the work of a particularly gifted writer recently (who is struggling to find a publisher for her book) I realized how brave writers really are. As a writer, if you don’t spill your guts (but not too many guts) and pour your heart out, people will know. There’s no hiding in words. Either you give the reader everything (but not too much), or you fail.
The reader knows when you’re holding back, when you’re lying (or, if they don’t know right away, they will find out from Oprah later), when you’re not being honest with him/her or yourself. Not to pat myself on the back (although a little patting will be in order when my memoir comes out soon), but writers really have to be willing to take chances. I suppose heading for the typewriter every morning (or these days, the computer), and staring at the blank page doesn’t seem as scary as say, piloting a plane or heart surgery, but indeed it can be frightening. Just to prove my point, look at the number of people who say they want to be writers, but never write.
Another strange thing about writers: we live our lives according to deadlines. “Dead” is a word I don’t especially like, and yet it’s constantly on my mind. It doesn’t do the reader or the writer, and certainly not the editor, much good if a writer doesn’t meet his or her deadlines. In fact, missing the deadline as a constant habit is a good way to end a writing career.
That said there is nothing else I would rather do (nor, I might add, is there much else I am capable of doing after all these years). So please bear with me, dear readers, as I continue this life-long and very public romance.