Who Am I? The Self-Discovery Caused From Writing A Novel
Somewhere back in time at 208 Fortress Street in base housing of the former Strategic Air Command’s K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I would sit at a kidney bean family heirloom desk with a children’s red type writer and “write.” I would sit in front of the lower window you see in the photo to the right and I would write.
A few years later in Mrs. Reid’s eighth-grade journalism class at Mitchell Sr. Elementary School in Atwater, CA circa 1979-80, I received the worst grade I’ve ever received on a writing project–an F, for refusing to write a short, fictional story. Note, it was a journalism class.
During my senior year of college at Auburn University at Montgomery, in 1987, I received one of my best writing grades–an A, in Nancy Anderson’s Advanced Expository Writing class. Mrs. Anderson, who went by the self-proclaimed nickname “the Dragon Lady,” almost never awarded works with such grades, but I am proud to say, I am one of the few. During that quarter I was taking 24 hours of classes, working on the school newspaper and working at a local department store to help pay for school.
Writing, and principled writing, has been a part of my life since I can remember.
But I am learning at age 48 there still is much I have to learn about writing.
My late maternal grandmother, Joyce Sheptak, used to always to encourage me to “write what I know,” the oft used cliche nearly every writer knows. She always used to cite “I Remember Momma” as her impetus for the suggestion.
During the past month or so since I began this new novel writing practice, I’ve studied much about what I know and come to the conclusion that my writing shouldn’t be as much about “what I know” but about “who I am.”
And that’s led to some amazing self-discovery and analysis. My counselor, friend and web client, Dr. Harold Duncan of Dallas, Texas says right now I’m actually doing something that almost 95 percent of the population, or more, never will do, whether writing a novel or not.
I’m trying to really find out who I am.
WHO AM I?
That’s been an amazing question to ponder. Dr. Duncan says that at age 48 it’s about time I started asking myself such questions. As he has explained, you can’t do what I’m doing in your teens, 20s, 30s or even really in one’s early 40s. In life, we’re just not ready. Our perspectives on such an exercise would be highly skewed.
Think about that for a moment. In our teens, we clearly have no clue about what life is about. We think we do. Many parents have done much to help get us ready to leave and cleave by age 18 and graduation from high school, but even as the eldest of five children, I can honestly assert, I wasn’t ready for that.
Our 20s are spent trying to find a vibrant career and in large part, mine were also spent thinking I needed to find a spouse to start a family. God had other plans.
Our 30s are spent in family and work mode.
Our 40s leap up fast and we think we have become experts about what this life is about and all of a sudden someone pulls a rug out from under you and everything that once was up is down and what was down is now up.
And at least for me, after enduring that mid-40s upsetting of what I thought was going to be a smooth sail to the finish line, I can honestly sit here and pen this. I have some new perspectives on life I didn’t have before.
So who am I? I’m not the person I was at any other point in my life. When I was younger I held the perspective that I probably couldn’t write fiction because ultimately, I hated to see the travesties of life inflicted on my characters. I wanted and thought and longed for a smooth life. I thought that was still possible. After being wronged, cheated and having lost nearly every element of normalcy to my life I once held as dear, I finally feel like I can skewer a character or two of my own in my stories.
More about me to follow. This is, after all, a journey. We’re not going all the way in one or two posts.
Time to step away from the computer for a bit, take out a piece of paper and a pen and think about yourself. Do this exercise:
1) Write down one or two words that describe each of the various roles you currently play in your life.
Fill up the page. Do two or three. That’s fine, there are no right or wrong answers, so long as you’re being honest with yourself. This isn’t for anyone else to see, so be brutally honest with yourself. The more honest you are with you, the more you will get out of this activity, whether you’re going to write a novel or simply work on better defining who you are.
2) Once you’ve made a sizable list go back thru it. What roles are you in that are positive? Are there any that are negative? Do you need to change any of them? If there are roles you think you need to change, I recommend getting out a 3 x 5 notecard and putting them on a separate list. We’ll come back to them later.
My Novel Project
The Beginning April 21, 2014