A few years ago, my daughter was doing some part-time online teaching at Gotham Writers' Workshop and found out that she got a free class for every class she taught. She asked if she could give it to her mom and they agreed.
I had quit practicing law at the time and had opened a used bookstore that found me surrounded by writers and with quite a bit of extra time. The class sounded like it might be fun, although I balked at the possibility of being taught by my daughter. When she assured me this wouldn't be the case, I climbed on board.
Our first assignment was to write a short introductory paragraph. As best I recall, my introduction went something like this:
My daughter gave me this class for a Chrsitmas present because she thinks I like to write. She's only half right. The truth is that what I really like is to be done with writing. To have something that I've written that I can go back to later and read. To have an idea pop into my head and for the words to flow. It doesn't happen often.
The truth was that it hadn't happened in years. When my kids were little, my sister and I wrote short essays about our kids and sent them to each other through the U.S. mail. I go back to those pages occassionally and they always take me to a place I've forgotten, but like to visit--a sort of time capsule at my fingertips. Unfortunately, they also make it appear that my kids aged out of being cute or interesting or the center of my world at about the ages 10 and 7 since that's when all writing stopped.
For the next 15 years, whatever writing I did was to an audience of lawyers and judges. And, to the extent that I enjoyed any success at that, it was mainly because I was good at "getting to the point" and giving the judges just a few pages to read rather than the 20 that most attorneys handed over.
I credit my succinctness to an old philosophy professor whose one rule was that we couldn't hand anything in that was longer than one typed page. It forced me to organize ideas and thoughts, to get to the point, and to leave out extraneous verbiage.
Imagine my surprise when my instructor started telling me she'd like to hear more of my story and not just my conclusion. When she started talking about things like the important "descriptive detail" and "voice" and "dialogue." When she started asking me to show rather than to tell.
I plodded along, skipping some assignments, turning others in late, reluctantly crossing out the adverbs that helped raise my word count, not reaching the 3,000 words that were suggested for our last piece, and always being relieved to be "done." Although also happy to have a finished written product at my fingertips.
Sometime later, my daughter joined the foreign service, I quit being the beneficiary of free classes, and I stopped writing. Again.
Until I ran across Open Salon.
I don't remember how I got here, but my guess is that my daughter "liked" a post, I saw it on my Facebook page and wandered over.
It wasn't long before I pulled out one of those late assignments, pasted it up and pressed "publish." Like most maiden posts, it was mainly ignored, lost among the better writers and the recognized names. It didn't help that I didn't have an avatar and that "religion" was in the title. I was low on the learning curve.
Still, I got two rates and one comment. (Thank you, Helvetica). It was more than enough to keep me going.
I'm not a deep thinker like some here. Nor am I a poet, an artist, or someone who can turn a phrase into a thing of beauty. I don't have any grand passions and, luckily, have lived a mainly happy life on a fairly even keel. I'll never have as much to say or be as proific as Con Chapman no matter how quick I am to say "done."
But I am somewhat of a plodder and met my own personal goal of writing at least one post a week. As I look back at nearly a years worth of writing, I'm as amazed by the trail I've created as I am by what I read here every day.
My kids have now appropriately aged on paper well beyond their early childhoods. I've revisited and recalled things about my own childhood that I had forgotten. I've left bread crumbs showing the way of my political leanings, my everyday life, and at least a peek into my thoughts and who I am. My time capsule is getting full.
I still like to be "done" with writing and am often too quick to press "publish" without going back and rereading and rewriting.
I know that's part of the process, but I'm always a little too happy to have written anything at all. Being "done" and having those finished products is a large part of letting me think of myself as a writer. Only gradually have I found myself enjoying the writing part too.
This post started out as a one year anniversary post--a sort of thank you to Open Salon and all the readers and writers who've inspired me with their own writings and who've kept me going with some recognition for my own.
Unfortunately, when I looked back at my old posts I realized that my anniversary is actually November 23rd instead of the October 23rd date that I remembered.
This post is a month early.
But darn it, it's "done."