I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be an artist. Hell, I still want to be an artist. I was even an art major for two quarters in college and I wrote my Master’s research paper on measuring artistic ability.
My problem is that I have very little of the artistic ability I was attempting to measure with my research project. I’m relatively creative and I can think of all sorts of art I would like to do, but when pen or paint or glue goes to paper, it doesn’t look much at all like I thought it would. To further exacerbate my dilemma, I have an anemic eye for color and worse, no patience with practice making perfect (or even passable).
I have, however, throughout my life, felt successful when I write. My first writing memory had to do with my mother, who was and still is, although she’s dead, my creative role model. I remember some time in elementary school when I was supposed to write a description of myself, probably one of those stupid writing assignments we teachers love to give at the beginning of each term. My mother suggested, instead of describing who I was and what I liked, that I should address who I wasn’t and what I didn’t like, something akin to “I’m not a tall willowy blond and I hate brussels sprouts.” At that point, I realized, by writing in a different, quirky way, people would pay attention and remember. It worked! My teacher loved my writing and thought I was a genius.
But I still wanted to be an artist.
The next writing assignment I remember was freshman year in college. I had to take that damned Speech class most everybody has (or at least had) to take. Once again, Mama to the rescue. She talked me into writing and presenting a speech on love. There I was an eighteen year old, having just packed on my freshman thirty with cafeteria food, standing before my peers, including members of the Georgia Football Team, talking about romantic love. And I pulled it off! Well, at least nobody snickered, probably because the big ones in the back were drawing pass plays in their notebooks. Thanks to Mama, I made an A in the course.
I was an art major at the time.
Fast forward some years to my early married life when I wrote what I considered to be a scathing letter to our landlord after Gary, Baby Melissa, and I moved into an apartment that hadn’t been finished. No railings on the stairs, no gate on the fence, no answers to phone calls. After the company received my letter, we were allowed to break our lease. At that point, I came to understand that putting words to paper could pack a punch (and perhaps make people think you're crazy). By that time, I'd given up on art as a profession, but still dabbled in my spare time, painting, pasting, sewing, and for one short season, macramé-ing.
Next came a letter to the editor of the Macon Telegraph about the importance of air conditioning our schools, and suddenly I’d been published. But, although I enjoyed the cool air our referendum offered, I thought no more about writing.
Then there was graduate school and lots of papers to write. For one final exam, I wrote a poem as a response to an essay question, and, although my professor scoffed at me in his grading comments, I passed the test. Another professor told me I should write a humorous column for an education journal, and while I was thrilled, I managed to keep from actually doing anything about it (other than bask for a couple of days).
When I stopped attending graduate school and started teaching it, it occurred to me that I was supposed to be doing scholarly writing in order to earn tenure. What did I know about scholarly writing? I was an artist! So instead, I wrote a couple of things that weren’t scholarly at all but got published, and I was tenured anyway.
While I was working hard at not being scholarly, I also self-published three meant-to-be funny murder mysteries some of my friends seemed to like. The most important part of that process was that I was able to create a main character who was guess what? an artist, and a crazy one at that. I finally felt like an artist myself as I painted word pictures of all the things I would have created if only I’d had the talent or the nerve. Through writing, I was able to become my main character, Annabelle. Or maybe I'd always been Annabelle and whatever talents I have were just surfacing in a different way.
After moving to Atlanta five years ago, I didn’t write anything at all, other than lesson plans and sentences on the board for my second graders. It took turning 60 and driving down an Atlanta one-way street the wrong way to get me writing again. I suddenly wanted to do something to explain myself, to make me believe I wasn’t losing all my faculties.
I had no idea where this blog journey would lead me. The path has taken me to new friends, renewed relationships with old friends, more thoughtful thinking, puked-up memories, and a better understanding of what I can expect as I move on through this life. The great thing about a blog is the reciprocity of it all, the conversations that occur between bloggers and responders, and the great mutual support system the blogosphere provides. It's definitely not a one way street as I've received more than I've given: laughs, tender moments, good advice, great concern, and an improved personal understanding of our big old world.
And so, I think I'll keep on blogging. But first, I'm going to get out my watercolors and paint something too aesthetically benign to be even ugly. Because I am, after all, an artist.