I lived the career version of Sex and the City, jumping from one rebound job to another in search of the “right one.” For 15 years I refused to truthfully answer the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
When I looked in the mirror, a ghost reflection of who I am stared back at me. My dormant passion burned on a back burner because dreams are sexier to imagine, harder to pursue. It was easier to follow a paycheck than fulfill my destiny.
This year I vowed to stop talking about the writing career that could have been and the unedited book that sat on my desk like an overgrown lawn. Instead, I committed to writing a biographical essay every single day and post it to the vast abyss behind the “Publish” button.
The universe obviously got wind of my project because inspirational messages flooded my social media feeds. Steve Harvey gave a 6-minute motivational speech after a taping of the Family Feud. In it, he spoke directly to me, advising me to JUMP. Oprah delivered an inspirational sermon like a preacher where she assured me “there are no mistakes” and advised me to find my inner destiny. Finally, Steven Spielberg urged me to listen to the whisper inside.
The world was cheering me on. My parents, not so much.
“You got the details all wrong,” my mother would quickly point out about a story. “I was wearing a blue dress, not a pink one”
My father couldn’t handle the reading after the first piece I mentioned him cheating on my mother. He just ignores I don’t write altogether.
It’s hard enough pursuing a writing career without putting limitations on what experiences could be exploited. No one becomes a writer to get rich. This is how we cope with life. We write to survive. If I didn’t expel the incessant formation of words from my brain, I would develop an ulcer, or worse, a tumor!
The best writing comes from challenging life scenarios. It’s during times of struggle and duress that the captivating stories of life are forged from pain and gripping emotions. To an artist, this is a gold mine. Unfortunately, my alcoholic mother and adulterer father didn’t ask to be the characters whose mistakes filled up my memories and later, my pages. So I stopped sharing the blog posts on Facebook where my mom could read them and because my father had already abandoned my blog, I didn’t have to worry. In his head, he wasn’t seeing them, so they didn’t exist.
Writers cannot and should not write for their parents. I had a realization. My parents didn’t seek MY APPROVAL when they chose booze or women as their life coping mechanisms. I don’t have to ask for their permission either; I choose to cope with my life with words.
* Cry. While our parents are alive, no matter how old we get, we crave our parents’ approval and when we don’t get it, it stings. Channel this hurt into your writing. Rough emotions trigger an alluring story; don’t suppress sadness or anger – engage them.
* Don’t take it personally. A reader will only be able to absorb your words through the filter of their life baggage. Do not let the fear of someone else’s approval hinder your truth or creativity. Your stories are valid and valuable and worthy of being told.
* Unless you’re writing for marketing, don’t think about your target audience when you write. Write from the heart and engage a reader’s empathy and attention. Be true to your story no matter what.
* Value your writing; as your profession, as your therapy, as your art.
* Write. Rewrite. Share! If you want to be a writer, write! Put it in the ether and put it out there. Committing to a virtual audience increases your odds that you’ll stick with it. The Internet can also be a support group, giving you the virtual high-fives and hugs when your family may not.