Thursday, October 4, 2012
My Dad Knew
I am a writer, I am a writer, I am a writer.
It's my version of The Little Engine That Could. Maybe if I tell myself often enough I will begin to believe it. My dad used to always tell me that I was a good writer, that when I really sat down and tried great stories would come tumbling out of me. Everytime he would find one of my stories saved on his computer he would come into my room and do his best to encourage me to keep going, keep writing, to one day make it my job. I would delete them as soon as I could.
For some reason I could never hear him. I could never accept his words as truth, I always thought to myself, You're my dad, you have to say that. It didn't matter that I was frequently published in our local newspaper or that once the Sacramento Bee had even run one of my editorials. It didn't matter that I had won a prize for my writing in our district's Academic Olympics or had been chosen as an essay winner by a prominent textbook company. The prize was this handheld language computer that was used for I never was sure what, but we loved to spell out swear words and listen to the generic computer voice say bad, bad things.
It wasn't that I didn't want to be a writer. I knew I wanted to be one the second I saw my name in black and white print in my junior high school magazine. I had interviewed our school's principals during Principal's Week. I remember sitting in Mr. Corley's office with my pen and notepad, squeaking out my carefully prepared questions. I was so nervous. To my twelve year old self, interviewing the The School Principal felt as important as interviewing the President of the United States. In retrospect, I wonder if I got the Big Story because no one else wanted to spend a second of unnecessary time in the principals offices. I was thrilled by it, though.
I loved writing and I loved seeing my name and my words in print. I knew it was what I wanted to do. It's been 21 years since that first byline and I am just now deciding to believe what my dad told me, what my mom told me, what my teachers and friends and now you have been telling me. I am a writer.
You see, almost the moment I decided that I wanted to be a writer I became acutely aware of all the other writers around me. How good they were. How much better they were. How I could never make sitting down to coffee and a doughnut seem enlightened or beautiful. Even while I was being published, I was looking over her shoulder or his shoulder and sighing over the brilliance of their words. Their words, not mine. Why couldn't I ever write like that?
I was so absorbed in how well everyone else was telling stories that I forgot how to tell mine. I suspect it is a common problem among writers to agonize over other people's words. We all wish we had said that. One day, not so very long ago, I let it all go. I let expectations go out the window and thanked God that He gave me words and a desire to share them.
I'm sharing my words and suddenly my Dad's encouragements are in my inbox, from my friends, from strangers and acquaintances. From people who don't have to encourage me because they are my dad. It's still hard to hear, still hard to believe.
My dad died almost nine years ago. Every time I hit "publish" his words ring in my ears and I wonder what he would have thought about what I just wrote.
I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer.