I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a teacher. I am a volunteer. These sentences roll off my tongue. I am a writer, does not; but it should—if I choose to accept it.
As a writing professor (on an extended sabbatical), I know a lot about the craft of writing and for the last year and a half, I have tried, in vain, to convince myself I am a writer. I don’t yet accept it; but I should.
I should accept it not because I am making mega-dollars as a published author—I’m not; not because I see my words written in multiple languages—I don’t; and not because I’ve won awards and prizes—I haven’t. I should accept I am a writer because I write. I write about my memories and my fantasies. I write about my struggles and my joy. I write because I enjoy it.
I have had the fortunate opportunity to delve into books and explore them on a personal level as well as a professional level. Teaching literature is like leading a complex book club and as long as someone has actually read the material, they can interpret it almost any way they’d like. But maybe it is this intimacy with literature that has made me the reluctant writer. Would others judge my works the way I have judged F. Scott Fitzgerald, August Wilson, or John Grisham? Yes, of course they would—but it’s not me they are judging, it’s my writing or my subject matter.
Recently, I started my own blog which is a strangely intimate sort of publication. On it, I share my past experiences. I explore my areas of competencies (or lack thereof). I communicate with those who choose to sit and stay awhile. Most of all, my blog is a reflection of me and my life.
My life has taken interesting twists and turns. I had an ordinary childhood. I received an education. I married my college sweetheart. So far, it’s rather dull. I became a Marine wife. I mothered two challenging sons. I became a full-time caregiver of a dying husband. I earned a graduate degree while raising two very active boys and taking care of a person with Lou Gehrig’s disease. I was widowed at the age of 37.
This is not the normal path of an ordinary person—which I was, and still am. My life is not easier or more difficult than others—it is just different.
My favorite band, Better than Ezra, has a song entitled “Extra Ordinary.” I want to share my stories not because they are extraordinary, but because they are extra-ordinary. People often say to me “I could never do what you did.” But in reality, my life isn’t extraordinary, it’s just extra-ordinary, and yes they could; it’s not like life always gives you a choice. Unless you want to become a writer.