I’m a writer. That’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. And I’ve been doing it for a living since I was 20 years old. That’s a long time ago.
All that time, I’ve been writing for The Man, the boss, putting others’ words on paper or my words in others’ mouths. For almost 30 years, I wrote the equivalent of grey government cheese for decent remuneration and zero benefit for my heart and soul.
Ten years ago, an out-of-the-blue heart condition tried to inform me that each day is a blessing not to be wasted because you may not get a tomorrow. Part of that waste was denying the Writer within me the room to breathe fresh air instead of the climate-controlled breeze wafting over my office cubicle. Near-death experiences can do that to you.
I started to write for me. Mostly angry, sassy essays that I shared with friends around the USA. Then I knocked off a bit of memoir at my kitchen table one afternoon about the Christmases of my childhood. I submitted it to a publisher who was putting together a Christmas anthology and it was accepted for publication. Paid a couple of hundred bucks, too.
So I continued to write, not for the bucks, but for the discoveries I was making in myself and the world I’d ignored for the previous decades. And then everything stopped.
I can’t call it writer’s block. It was more that I ran out of gas and sass. I had lost that feeling of creating something tangible from sense and memory, illuminated by the cracked prism through which I view the world. It hurts when that happens.
A dear friend noted that my prose always sounded quite poetic to her. “Why don’t you write a poem?” she said.
Uh, no. Grumpy old fallen journalists do not write poetry.
In desperation, I did as she asked. I started out with the 5-7-5 structured hug of haiku. She said it was good.
“You’ve got a thing for this, Joe,” she said.
I then wrote a poem about not being able to write anymore, stringing together those syllabic steps. She suggested I share it with some other folks. They suggested I share it with some literary journals, which I did.
It was accepted for publication. As was the next poem. The poetry and the feelings of acceptance I received recharged my fiction machine and I was back in business as a writer. But this time I was really writing for me. No, I guess I was just really writing.
Which brings us around to this blog. My writer friend Jane Tolman suggested I do the Twitter thing to see what other writers do–besides write, I mean. Within my first week, I met a handful of writers who graciously accepted me into their following fold and returned that favor to me.
And here we all are.
So I write now almost every day. Some days it’s poetry and others it’s stories.
Now, enough backstory. Yep, I have a thing for words. They are my tools and my raw materials. Sometimes I use them to build beautiful houses. Other times I use them like a Cub Scout does, hammering pieces of pine into a birdhouse with bent nails.
But I keep building . Each day a new present and future on my journey through a second-chance literary life.