You Might Be a Writer…
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with words.
While other three-and-four-year-olds were content to amuse themselves with the antics of Dick and Jane, I was lost in Little Women (a fact that was an endless source of bragging rights for my parents). But as an only child, stories were my worlds and the characters my friends.
I rode in covered wagons with Laura Ingalls Wilder, solved crimes with Nancy Drew, sat by the fireside with my beloved March sisters, and in later years, let Judy Blume teach me a thing or two about sex.
Books saw me through some of the most challenging times in my life. I could escape and let the words wash over me, making me forget that all around me life as I knew it was crumbling.
Ever the precocious preschooler, I even tried my own hand at writing, taking crayon to paper and weaving tales starring me as the victim or heroine, depending on the day. As I got older, I traded the crayon for pen and spilled my teen angst in loopy handwriting all over the page, certain that I was the only person to have ever felt love, pain, and life so deeply.
As an adult, the pen begrudgingly gave way to the keyboard, and a career slowly but surely began to evolve as I prostituted my words to anyone willing to pay. The thing about writing for someone else, I soon discovered, is that while the words are your own, the subject matter is often dictated by a higher (read paying) source.
Therefore, while you may be meeting the bills, you aren’t meeting your needs.
Before long, filled with resentment for the irony that you actually make a living doing what you love but you don’t love what you do (not to mention righteous indignation over journalistic ethics), you begin to long for your pen and the blank pages of your journal just waiting to be filled with the type of authenticity that only you can call forth from your vivid imagination and literary genius.
So you sit, with your pen and journal waiting for your life force to explode with brilliance on the page. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait…
You write a sentence.
You scratch it out.
You write a paragraph.
You love it!
You hate it.
You scratch it out.
You walk the dog.
You go for coffee.
You surf social media.
You write an entire page this time.
You rip it out and throw it away.
At this point you begin to reevaluate your career path based on these pathetic attempts at a craft for which you clearly possess no talent.
You start to wonder how you’ve made a living at this for so many years, and you question the judgment and sobriety of those who have hired you for what they have glowingly referred to as your creativity, way with words, and storytelling skills.
You summon every piece of advice you’ve ever read. “Write what you know,” “write from your heart,” “write as though these are the last words you will ever share.” Then you scribble a rhyming couplet about lost love, realize you might have just plagiarized your own high school diary, and crawl under your desk where you rock in the fetal position.
You hide your pen and journal in the recesses of a drawer, and vow to step it up a notch at your real writing job lest your editors discover that you are in fact an imposter posing as a feature writer.
Meanwhile, your pen and journal mock you from their hiding place, and your blank computer screen taunts you with its blinking cursor, until finally, in the wee hours of the morning,you stop thinking and start writing.
It doesn’t make sense yet, and it isn’t cohesive, but there is a faint thread that runs through it and you know that once you start pulling, it will unravel to reveal a bigger picture. Once you start, it just feels right and it begins to flow like a song you haven’t heard in years yet you still know all the words by heart.
It is during this process as the thoughts flow freely that you realize that this is what you do. This is who you are. Maybe you aren’t the best at it, but it’s all you know and it’s all that has ever made sense when your brain becomes too jumbled to properly sort things out.
And in those moments you begin to feel like maybe, just maybe, you aren’t an imposter after all. In fact, you might be a writer…
Bonny Osterhage is a professional journalist by day and a nocturnal dabbler in the creative. An avid reader and observer of life, she is continually fascinated by the journey and evolution of the human spirit as it adapts to changing circumstance. Fueled by coffee and a love affair with classic literature, she is driven by emotion over logic and intuition over reason on a daily basis, often to her detriment. A spontaneous soul, she will run to the beach at a moment’s notice to play tag with the tide, dance with the sunbeams on the water, and let the warmth of the sun restore her soul.