Monday, May 5, 2014

Why Become a Writer?

A friend of mine, enrolled in a creative writing class, once said to me, "Why in the hell would anyone ever choose this?" I laughed and said, "I didn't."
I grew up Catholic. And for years, I listened to nuns and priests talk about how their station in life was a "calling from God." They felt they were called by him, selected to be chaste, to live by the vow of poverty, to serve him, all their lives. I understood the calling then, and I understand the calling now. And part of me believes one is called to be a writer.
From as young as two or three, I had pre-verbal memory. Memory before I could talk. These images and thoughts may be convoluted, mixed up, half-truths, but they exist in my head as real as any other thought. They are part of my stories.
I have always existed on the outside of things, as an observer. I participate, but usually recollect more than others, for whatever reason. So, when people say, "Remember when such and such happened?" I do. The year, the day, what everyone was wearing, where people were sitting, etc. And even those memories may be suspect, but they are the only ones to question.
My personal story started big. At six months my father asked my mother to leave our house, and she was gone. I grew up with a void. At six, my father remarried a woman who abused me. So did her brother. Her mother, however, treated me with respect and love, and had a positive impact on my life. So did my neighbor Sue Barbis, the O'Rourke family, the Leahys, my Catholic School, extended family, and countless others. They helped make me the productive adult I am today.
When I was 18, my beloved older brother was killed in a motorcycle wreck. Two years later, I joined the navy. I moved from New York to California, traveled all over the state. At 21, I eloped and divorced. I got married again, and had a baby. Left that man and married the man I thought was the love of my life. Had a baby. And at 28, became a widow. The pen came knocking at my door. I've never been the same.
Sometimes I wish I would have been called by God. My life may have been less dramatic, less traumatic. But, why wish away experience? So, here I am. Truthfully, anyone can be a writer. That's why there a million MFA programs. But, it's more romantic for me to think of being called to writing. And after all, I am a hopeful romantic.

My brother, 4, me, 2, and cat, Midas. 

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