Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Right to Write – Beginnings

There was a time when I wasn’t a writer, but I think it was before I was eight or nine years old. Something must have been obvious to my parents, for it was about that time my printing-business-owner father brought home a paperbound blank-page book that he had assembled for me to write my own mystery story.

But even then, writing remained something I did in school. In high school, I had a tendency to turn to creative writing, “creative” in terms of parody and satire. But I never thought of writing as a possible career. I was going to be the doctor my father had wanted to be until the Great Depression cut short that dream.

Two semesters of college chemistry, and the prospect of 13 more hours in chemistry for the pre-med curriculum, convinced me that practicing medicine was not my future. I also had this bent toward English, literature and history, especially literature, but they didn’t seem to offer much in the way of a career, at least as my father saw it. “Look,” he said, “at least do something practical. If all else fails, try journalism.”

All else didn’t necessarily fail, but journalism offered the practical training my father was looking for and a huge number of free electives, which allowed me to add whatever looked interesting in the way of history and literature courses.

A life pivots on such a simple statement from a father. My dream wasn’t to be a reporter or editor, but journalism would allow me to use words and possibly even be paid for it. By the end of my freshman year in college, I was learning that I enjoyed using words more than anything else I could think of.

As Julia Cameron says in The Right to Write, “The act of writing, the aiming at getting it right, is pure thrill, pure process, as exciting as drawing back a bow…I love it when I write well, but I love it when I write, period.”

Over at the High Calling Blogs, we’re starting a discussion of Cameron’s The Right to Write. Laura Boggess is leading with her introductory post, "On Forgetting Myself." Take a look Monday and see what others are saying, commenting and posting.

Related Posts:

L.L. Barkat's "Let Yourself Write" at Seedlings in Stone.

"Let's Write" by Nancy Kourmoulis at Treasures of Darkness.

Monica Sharman's "Book Club: The Right to Write" at My Big Three.

Louise Gallagher's "An automatic response" at Recover Your Joy.

Nancy Rosback's "Ready Set Go" at Poems and Prayers.

"Just Writing" by Erin Kilmer at Together for Good.

Cassandra Frear's "In the Quiet" at Moonboat Cafe.


Maureen said...

You once looked to medicine. I once thought I'd be a musician, until at around age nine when I submitted an essay to a national contest (sponsored by Barbie's maker Mattel, no less). The essay entered semi-finalist or finalist status, I forget now which it was, though I have the charm I got for "placing". Even in the essay I said I wanted to be a musician. And yet everything I did involved writing. In high school I got it figured out.

I kind of "fell" into writing professionally; Vassar at the time did not allow one to major in such craft and I'd turned down U of Mo journalism school. I had talent and got hired by a local paper and just kept on going. The breaks weren't great for women in journalism when I started out (one interviewer asked when I intended to be married and how many children I wanted) and I did long service on behalf of government contracting until going into the private sector. I made a good living.

I'm making nothing off my writing these days and I'm happier doing it than ever before, because I get to choose and I get to write every day about what I love. And I get to write poetry.

To write is to claim a right to have a voice, to be who I am. I write and I am.

Laura said...

And I am so grateful that life pivoted this way for you, Glynn, and also for Maureen! I am one of the beneficiaries of your change in direction.

Looking forward to going through this read with you!

Linda said...

I too am grateful you took the path you did (high school chemistry did me in!!).
I have my book and am really looking forward to this discussion. I am eager to learn from all of you who are so far ahead of me on the path.

S. Etole said...

I admire those of you who balance words in such a wondrous way ...

Kathleen Overby said...

Susan said it. It was so intimidating at first to comment on your posts and Maureen's because the writing is so polished and sophisticated. iAspire.
But what comes through is that you are doing for free what you love. The value comes from being heard and appreciated, I hope. I especially love your personal stories and memories. :) You truly use your gifts and influence for good. We benefit.

Red Letter Believers said...

Glynn. funny, even though I have always wanted to be a writer since I was just a wee lad and even though I am paid to write, I still don't think of myself in those terms.

In a strange way, I still haven't arrived.


Anonymous said...

you make me want to join-in on this one.

interesting hearing of your journey. it really is amazing what turn of events come from one a parent uttering a few words.

L.L. Barkat said...

"A life pivots on such a simple statement from a father."


(Hey, you are TOO quick with your links. Gotta love it :)

Solid Rock or Sinking Sand said...

I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. Very well written and informative. God bless, Lloyd

Louise Gallagher said...

That pivot sounds like a full circle linking you back to where you belong -- back to where you began, within yourself, writing your way out and showing others the way.

My first writing 'job' was as editor of our high school newspaper. I was also the founder. We had a gestetner back then. One of my favourite sounds was the clunk, clunk of the wheel turning and then the paper falling out of the bin.

I didn't start writing professionally until my mid-thirties when upon realizing my thirtieth birthday was drawing nye, I panicked. "OMG I've always said I'm going to be a writer and I'm not writing..." I promptly called a local newspaper, pitched a feature story for the Sunday magazine -- and got the assignment! My, was I surprised and a bit terrified. Meant I had to go out and find a few WW2 German war vets who had moved back to Alberta after spending the war as POWs here. I found them. Wrote the story and was hooked.

Still kept my day job. Still keep my day job but my day job has evolved so far from that time when I was Director of Investor Relations for a public company!

Funny about the med school I applied to Edinburgh. My father and I went to visit. I wanted to go, desperately. Not for the med school but to get away from home and 'do something significant'. I got talked out of med school, went to the U of Strassbourg instead.(My father wouldn't buy the U of Grenoble for a degree in skiing -- go figure!)

and through it all, I wrote. I can't remember a time when I haven't written.

Like you -- writing is when I am most happy.

Look forward to joining in the conversation!

What fun!

Your words are always inspiring. Kinda like Jack Nicolson in As Good As It Gets -- You make me want to be a better writer. :)!

Unknown said...

I enjoy reading how others journeys have brought them to the place where they are now. Like Linda and Kathleen commented above "I'm eager to learn" and "I aspire".

Cassandra Frear said...

I really enjoyed reading about your story. My husband is a newspaper editor and journalist. I'm sending him the link to your blog post.

SimplyDarlene said...

Oh yes, the passions in us cannot be quieted with a medical degree (or law degree). Somehow those tick-tock heart words just a keep beating their way out, aye?


Helen said...

I am glad you write. Your stories inspire.

Sandra Heska King said...

My mom wanted me to be an airline "stewardess" so she could get free tickets. At the time, I was too short and wore glasses.

My other choices were teacher or nurse. I didn't know there were other choices.

So off to nursing school I went. If I had it to do over, I would have studied journalism.

Except in a sense, I think I'm still nursing.

Unknown said...

Glad you're writing bro', I so enjoying reading your musings!

Bless ya!

Duane Scott said...

I've been there. Chemistry isn't fun! Glad you decided to write. I sure enjoy it. :)