Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Swirl and Swing of Words

I love writing. I love writing more than I love arugula, and physical therapy and flowers and my patent leather shoes. Well. Maybe that's going overboard....But I do love writing. I love the clickety-clack of the keyboard, and I still love the feel of pen on paper--certain pens, certain papers. I rub my fingertips on the pages of a journal before I buy it. And I test pens before they end up in my cart.

I have been writing for a long time. For most of my life. "How long have you been writing?" people have asked, especially once I began seeking writing mentors for fiction and met serious writers, published authors, who are generally interested in such things. My knee jerk answer was to say "after college," when I started reading again. A more thoughtful response was to say that I had been writing since high school, when I entered the commencement speech contest to deliver the graduation address--and won. But later it occurred to me that was wrong too. That was simply the first time my writing was recognized in a formal way, not when I started writing.

When I had more time to think, I remembered in second grade I wrote a story on stationery. At home, at night I wrote a story on paper with a pink and green floral design in the left hand margin. I showed it to my teacher, who was nice to invite me to stay after school so that we could go through the punctuation and capitalization. I was jumping the grammar gun, I guess. (Hence the internal editor?) She didn't dismiss me or my story; she asked me to work on it with her. She told me, perhaps unwittingly, that my story was good, it mattered and was worth the extra work. So I kept at it.

In fourth grade my classmates and I could earn the privilege to sit around giant wooden spools, turned on their sides to double as coffee tables, on a carpeted area in the back of the room if we were done with our work early. There I sat one afternoon and wrote a story for extra credit. A couple of days later I was called to the Principal's office. How I made it there without passing out or soiling myself on the way, I don't know. The Principal's office was a place where kids in trouble were called; I had never been in trouble and couldn't for the life of me think of what I did wrong.

Only the principal greeted me with a smile and an outstretched arm, not a stern look and a beckoning finger. He told me to open my hand, so I did. Into my palm he dropped an eraser in the shape of a sneaker. He made a joke about a stinky sneaker award and congratulated me on my story, encouraged me to keep writing. And I did. I still am. Thanks to Miss DellaQuilla and Mrs. Bostrom, and Mr. Lanati, I am.

I wonder now what I wrote about then. Did I use writing as an outlet for my fears and disappointments? Was I giving teachers insight into my home life? Was I simply dreaming on paper? It doesn't keep me up at night wondering, mind you, but I would love to see those stories, to remember myself better then. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. What matters I know is that I still write, I still enjoy putting words on paper to tell a story--be it my own or that of a character I have dreamed up in a story, in a part of my novel that continues to evolve.

My new favorite quote about writing is by James Michener. My friend Amy gave it to me, on an ornament of a sort, a writing fairy (that we are both pretending is an angel) wearing the quote on her skirt. It reads, "I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions."

Enough said...for tonight.

1 comment:

Amy said...

So glad you like your writing angel.

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