I don't want to get all soul searchy here, but I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. Mostly about my writing, which is weird because I thought I had given up on it years ago. I had really reconciled myself to believing that writing wasn't going to be the way I made any sort of living. Maybe I'm wrong. I can be wrong. I've been wrong about a lot of things, I could be wrong about this, too.
Here's a little back story for those of you keeping score at home: I wrote my first poem in the fourth grade. For a boy. And it rhymed. It was terrible. How terrible? Here's a taste: "I know you're going to grunt and gripe/but to me you are the perfect type." Seriously? Seriously. I can't believe that (a) I wrote that in the fourth grade and (b) I just shared it with whoever is reading this. My apologies to those who were rendered so nauseous by reading that bit that they cannot possibly continue. I never got the boy, but I kept writing.
I wrote poems all through high school. Rhyming poems, haikus(!), I think I even tried sonnets. To be fair, it wasn't all terrible. I had a couple of poems published in Nova, the high school's literary magazine. I was also co-editor of Humanist, my high school yearbook (my first job writing copy!) All of the classic themes populated my work: love, death, war, things that, as a teenager, I had no clue about. I realized years later that the more I lived, the more I experienced things, the more specific my subject matter became. The bigger my world, the "smaller" my writing. Junior year, I was introduced to a playwright named Andrew Young. He spoke to our writing class and invited us to see a performance of his play at Maxwell's in Hoboken. I spent that summer going to a writing/theater workshop every Tuesday at the Y (what is it with me and not being able to stay home on a Tuesday night?). It was good for me, so if anyone knows whatever happened to Andrew Young, let me know, because I'd like to thank him.
I kept writing in college, and eventually declared English my major. (I can still hear the classic question in my head, "So...English major? So, you want to teach?" I've had some wonderful teachers in my life. They nurtured, supported and encouraged me. I would never besmirch their noble profession by joining their ranks. That is my final answer. But never say never, right?) I had a couple of poems published in the school paper and the literary magazine. My friend Benni (nickname) even made some of my poems into beautiful pieces of art. You can check out her awesome work here.
I don't think I've ever written more than when I was in my early to mid twenties. Lots and lots of poems, all a bit sad, some a bit sexual, mostly about one person who I will refer to as the Magnificent Obsession. I could be less dramatic and simply use initials, but he actually went by his initials, so forget it. How magnificent was this obsession? I basically wrote a whole book about it. Yup, a book. I was showing it to Furonda (not her real name) the other night and realized that I hadn't read the thing in at least five years (I wrote it ten years ago).I don't know why, but I was scared of what it would be like to read it all again. Maybe I was afraid that it would suck, maybe I was afraid that it would bring back bad memories. I read it yesterday morning and (a) it doesn't suck, (b) I'm not that person anymore and (c) most of my memories from that time are good. Basically, a win-win-win. Which brings us back to me thinking seriously about my writing.
I haven't written a poem in over four years, and aside from the late-night rambling I do here, I no longer keep a journal. I stopped right around the time my dad's health took a turn for the worse. I guess I lost my focus in a lot of ways during that time. I do spend a lot of time writing for work. Some of it's serious (memos, reports, meeting minutes), but a lot of it's not so serious (Tea Leaves, marketing copy, web stuff). The boss occasionally calls me Punster, and I'm often called upon for my brainstorming skills. Does that sound geeky? Well, I'm proud to be a three-time spelling bee champ and scrabble nerd, I can't help it if I'm good with word association. Go ahead and call me bookish, I'll take it as a compliment. Anyway, I'm feeling like it's time to get back out there (because this blog isn't out there enough). Seeing Sharon Olds definitely stirred something up inside me. But it's more than that. In some ways, I'm trying to regain my focus in every aspect of my life and writing was a huge part of my life for twenty years. Writing the blog is part of regaining that focus, but I feel like there is more to be done. Why not take a chance? Oh, right, fear of rejection. I'm working on it. I'm showing the book to a couple of people who know nothing about that time in my life. I figure they'll be objective. I'm also running the idea past friends who were with me the first time around. I figure they'll be as encouraging as ever (I'm getting a lot of "About time!"). We'll see where this all takes me. Baby steps, people, baby steps.
Poodle (again, phony name) said to me the other night, "Like it or not, the world wants you to be a writer." Well, like it or not, I guess I am.