Fifteen years ago, I decided to take myself up on my lifelong dream to be a writer. A writer for life. A life writer.
I cleared off my kitchen table, assembled my tools and talismans for writing, sat down and waited for the words to come.
It was impossible not to hear the grader in the back lane so I watched out the window for awhile. Up one strip of laneway and down, the giant yellow tractor scraped, shifted and shoved the terrain around. There would be no doubt—at the end of that grader operator’s day—about what he had accomplished.
At the end of my writer’s day, I’m not so sure.
Through some scraping and shoving of my own, I’ve finally shifted all the things I blamed for getting in the way of my writing: kids, house, job. My sons are both in school now and my own teaching, at least for this year, is sidelined. I have total independence from school bells, lesson plans and achievement exams. I have wide open spaces for writing.
I’m scared to death.
It seems most writers have gone down this Road of the Blank Page. W.O. Mitchell admonished new writers to “say yes to whatever floats up… tell the left- brain critic to bugger off.” And Stephen Leacock’s words, stenciled on the walls at Chapters (where you can easily divert yourself with finished writing) remind us, “The act of writing is simplicity itself. You simply write down the ideas as they occur. It is the occurring that is difficult.”
It occurs to me that I’m not without ideas. There’s my mother’s story to get started on and my own compulsion to write about my childhood. What it seems I lack is someone telling me what to write each day and—the English teacher in me doesn’t believe I’m asking this question—how long does it have to be? At the end of my work day, I want someone telling me I was not only creative and clever, but productive.
In my new writing life, it seems everyone else has gotten on with the business of living and I stand apart in a world of image, memory and words. On bad days, I taunt myself with scenes of dying in front of my computer and no-one realizing for weeks that I’m gone. On good days, I’m learning to trust myself.
To listen to graders in the lane.