“I’m reading your book.”
I was in the elevator with someone at work the other day when she revealed that she had picked up a copy of Two Hearts. It’s been nine months since my memoir was released and I still get a thrill when someone tells me they’re reading it.
“You’re such a good writer,” she said before the conversation turned to adoption when she revealed to me that her dad was adopted.
It was a brief moment in the middle of a busy day but it set a spring in my step for the rest of the afternoon.
I’ve worked in the corporate world for almost twenty-five years and, at times, I’ve received praise for work I’ve done in my role as a Computer Programmer, Project Manager, and Business Analyst. None of those accolades have given me the same kind of satisfaction as what I feel when I’m told that I’m a good writer.
I hold no illusions that I’m an amazing and talented writer but I love words. I love writing, I love reading, I love writing about reading, and reading about writing, and I had the tenacity to plant my butt in my chair long enough to produce a book.
When I was about eight or nine I first my parents that I wanted to be a writer.
“You can’t make a living as a writer,” I was told.
Unswayed, I continued to write. I wrote little stories, illustrated them, and stapled the pages together and called them books.
As a teenager I spent countless hours at my typewriter crafting short stories and poetry and pored over worn copies of writer’s magazines. I submitted a few pieces for publication and began collecting the requisite set of rejection letters that I read all writers amassed on the road to acceptance.
In my twenties, one of my poems was accepted for publication in an anthology and I received the first monetary remuneration for my writing. It wasn’t much, but it was something; I used it to get my daughter, Laurinda’s, ears pierced.
My thirties were stormy years and most of my writing was done in my journals as I tried to sort out the chaos all around me.
I didn’t do a lot of writing in my forties; I was adjusting to a new marriage and a change in my career, and that seemed to be enough.
Ah, but in my fifties I’ve been able to honor that little girl who told her parents she wanted to be a writer. Today, I call myself a writer; that’s who I am, it’s who I’ve always been. No, I’m not making my living as a writer, but I’m writing and I’m being true to the person I was created to be.
I think that’s the answer to the question of why praise for my writing means so much to me. Recognition for the work I do in my chosen career is just that: a compliment for something I’ve done. Recognition for something I’ve written is different: it’s approval and acknowledgement of who I am.
If I could step back in time and talk to that little girl who wanted to be a writer I’d tell her not to be dissuaded from her dreams; I’d tell her to set goals and be deliberate about the paths she chose. I’d tell her that the road would be winding and bumpy and, while she would encounter many detours, she would ultimately reach her goal of becoming a writer.
In some ways it’s like that little girl was there with me in the elevator the other day, and my nine-year-old self grasped the hand of my fifty-four-year-old self and we came full-circle.
I’m struck, once again, how incredible the experience of growing older can be with the right attitude and the eyes to see the wonder in an simple conversation with a co-worker in an elevator.