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 and committing those to paper. 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, my heart rebelled at this self-inflicted sentence and it 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. (Foreshadowing alert! Foreshadowing alert!)
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. Among those writers was someone I call “the hardest working woman in literary social networking,” Emlyn Chand (Melissa Storm). Melissa said I better get myself a blog and about a dozen others, including novelist and author-teaching superstar K.M. Weiland and German poet and artist Claudia Schönfeld agreed.
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.