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On Becoming a Writer

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

Eons ago, when I was twelve, my English teacher told me I was a talented writer. I was? I was just doing the assignment, not thinking I would show the world that I had talent. It’s confusing to be told you have talent in an area you take for granted as an everyday task to be done, like making your bed. “You are a talented bed maker,” would have taken me as much by surprise.

So here I am so many decades later, and I feel like an imposter of sorts. I went to school for training to learn how to play the violin on a level people would want to hear and pay me for. I never “trained” to be a writer, until now, and I feel like I’ll never get there. But I AM there, and this website, a fairly significant undertaking, is proof that I have made a decision to write!

This is a great time to be a writer. There is a lot of demand for good writers, and I’ve gone down the path of exploring freelance writing. However, the biggest paying gigs seem to be in selling - businesses selling to other businesses, businesses selling to potential customers - and in knowing your SEO how-to's, which I don’t. I’m not saying I couldn’t learn, but it’s just not what I want to do right now.

I don’t want to write to get people to buy stuff. I want to write to change the world. There, I said it.

I heard an NPR story recently about Inuit tribes, and how the parents raise their children through storytelling. Instead of anger and guilt, parents who witness their child doing something unacceptable, like hitting, calmly take the child aside and tell them a story. The story is one from a large repertoire designed to confront whatever behavior needs modifying. The Inuit parents do not use any form of violence or punishment to get their child to conform to acceptable behavior, and as a result, the tribes are noticeably more peaceful than comparable groups of humans.

My WIP (work in progress) had been in progress, or not, for years, as I struggled to make a coherent and appealing story. So I joined an online class called Story Grid, and found many like-minded writers who also want to change the world. Story Grid’s main line of reasoning is that we tell stories to learn about this world we’re in and help others understand it and deal with its complexities and problem spaces. That’s a passionate concept I can get behind!

Each week, we tear apart masterworks and discover the secrets of writers like Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Roald Dahl. There is a common element in all great stories: you learn something important, something you can take away and use in your own life that resonates beyond what you were doing before. The message is a core human value - do this, don’t do that (or else) - that we all need to deal with this complex comedic drama we’re in. It’s not light work, it’s serious, necessary and life changing.

I’m learning and absorbing and tearing my hair out - this is a normal existence that we all experience on a daily basis. I always think I’ll get to a place where everything will make sense and I won’t have to do the tearing of hair any longer. But I’m also learning that I need to make peace with the fact that I’ll probably never get there.

Noticing is enough.

Notice the good and bad, beautiful and ugly, easy and difficult. Notice the struggle, manipulations, relationships, steps forward then backward. The triumphs and disappointments, the dismay and celebrations. Notice what happens when human beings interact, the glorious and the ridiculous. There is a kernel of truth buried somewhere in there that we can take with us to at least learn something, and at most ease our journey.

And this is what I’ve learned: when that kernel makes itself known to you in a way that just won’t quit, then dear writer, share your new found wisdom, and go write about it.

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