I believe that who I am as a writer is due in large part to the teachers I have had. I don’t mean all of my teachers necessarily, but certainly there are ones that stand out as heavily influencing my writing. When my fifth grade teacher, Mr. William Hickey, told us we had to write in a journal every day, I was less than happy. What drudgery (in 5th grade vocabulary: how boring). It’s not that I didn’t like writing, or even school for that matter. It’s just that…well… I didn’t think I had anything to say. Despite my lack of belief in myself I managed to churn out some content for each entry. I remember writing about friends, what was going on in school and at home, and sometimes Mr. Hickey would give a topic to respond to. I wish I knew where that notebook was today; I could probably get some good material out of it!
I continued to write in Mrs. Andrea Marcus’ sixth grade class and even started liking it. At the end of the year, she asked me to help write the class’ “biography” so she could keep it in her archives. That was my first “work for hire” and I remember being both proud and satisfied that I was one of two kids chosen from the class for that all-important memoir.
My junior high years are a blur academic writing wise (must be the effects of the hormones), but I started a personal journal in which I wrote faithfully. The contents were mostly the stuff of teenage girl daydreams, but the habit of writing was there. I even managed to write a letter to the editor of a country music magazine and have it published. Boy did it feel good to see my name in print in a national magazine! I think that was when the real bug bit.
After settling down in high school, I made my way onto the student newspaper. I wrote about something I was engrossed in at the time: entertainment. As most teens did, and still do, I loved music, movies, and celebrity gossip, so that’s what I wrote about. (These days, I still love music, but as a mother of two young children, the most recent movie I’ve seen was Tangled, and as for celebrities, I just saw Paris Hilton for the first time on David Letterman the other night). Sometimes I wrote about news. In fact, a news story is what made me “famous” in my high school. My senior year I wrote an article about the Tylenol poisonings that monopolized the news that year. The yearbook faculty advisor asked me to write a lengthier piece, so I did. That article became a two-page spread in the yearbook, covering all the major events spanning the early eighties. Man, there was that good feeling! I was really starting to like this publication thing!
I was lost in college. I entered as a fine arts major, but bombed at that. So, I finally decided to do “something” with the writing; I was going to transfer into the journalism school. Only one obstacle; my grade point average was not up to their standards. I accepted that because I didn’t know enough to fight it. I happily enrolled in the College of Arts and Humanities and did a fine job as an English major.
I meandered through writing over the next several years. I worked a full-time job while going to grad school to become a school librarian. I dabbled in writing for the staff newsletter, even becoming the “editor” at one point, but never attempted anything serious. In my current full-time job as a high school librarian, I write a lot of school-related stuff; memos, lesson plans, emails, etc. Nothing too terribly exciting, but again, it keeps me writing. And about two and a half years ago I started reviewing historical young adult fiction for School Library Journal. There’s my name in print again!
So how did I end up here, writing this blog about writing (and other stuff)? Because I have to. I believe you know what I mean. If you have that thing, that desire, or that tiny seed of a desire inside of you that tells you that you have to write, you have no choice. Well, I suppose you can sit on the couch surfing channels or the web. Perhaps the dullness of your day job pushes that desire so deep down inside you that you don’t even recognize it for what it is. But I’m lucky because I never really lost the feeling. I did ask it to wait awhile so I could get my career (that I love) off the ground, and then so I could start my family and get them to school age, but I never buried it alive. Thank God.
So, I took that leap last August and filed my business certificate. My plan is to make some money at this writing gig, so I will delve into copywriting and article writing to bring in some cash. But I cannot abandon my non-business type writing. I love telling stories, so I have a few short pieces on the burners at the moment. I even took a creative writing class and was thrilled when the instructor told me I have a gift. (Thank you, Jerry Barker, yet another teacher). And there’s the personal essay I’ve started. Do I have a book in me? Definitely. I often think about writing about my grandmother’s life, but whether as a biography or a novel I haven’t decided. (There’s one of those dead relatives I told you about)!
But for now I won’t rush into doing too much at once. I’m building my renewed relationship with writing, nurturing it as I go day-to-day. Nothing feels as good to me as writing does. There’s a sense of power that comes with the ability to write, to move words around, tweak sentences, create characters and worlds that didn’t exist outside of my own imagination. I invite you along on my journey.
Dr. Wayne Dyer often paraphrases a Buddhist quote that states, “When the time is right, the right teacher will show up.” How true. My teachers in Webster, NY schools and Syracuse University were always there when I was ready for their instruction.
Who have your “right teachers” (or “write” teachers) been? How have they made you the writer you are today? How can you be the right teacher for someone else?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.