I was raised on stories, the stories my mother told me, the books she introduced me to, and of course the stories that I saw on television and movies. Stories have long been my pleasant diversion. But it was my teacher’s response to a composition that I wrote in ninth grade that began my love of writing.
Just as friendship is an important prelude to marriage, so reading as an important prelude to writing. In fact in both cases, it needs to be more than a prelude but a strong ongoing connection and relationship. Writers need to be readers.
Married people need to be able to like and respect each other, especially on days that they are not so much feeling the love. And, one hopes, on the days we may not even like each other very much (I have heard that it happens) to draw on those public promises we made to love, honor and cherish each other.
I only remember a small part of that first composition I wrote, the setting and the inclusion of subtle or wry humor. What I remember most was my teacher’s praise and encouragement to write. Thank you, Sister Mary Cecile!
The writing that I did not relish was the questions we had to answer at the end of the chapters in our literature books. And yet, we read some classics and the questions forced us to think.
Over the years, through high school and beyond, writing became an occasional pursuit, one that I enjoyed while doing it, but I only wrote when inspiration struck or a particular writing assignment was given. There was however, no discipline or devotion to my writing.
In my defense, I did not go to college until after I was married. I did some writing in my single-parent days, and collected some rejection slips. I wrote some short stories, lots of one-liners, greeting cards and poems.
I got really brave in the early 1980’s and did a portfolio for Hallmark Cards. It was brave, because I cannot draw stick figures, but the cards needed to be illustrated. Rejected. I sent some one-liner’s to Reader’s Digest. Rejected. Now, I have to tell you, that one hurt. Especially the one I sent for “Toward More Picturesque Speech” It was “A fisherman waiting with bated breath.” I thought that was pretty picturesque!
In the meantime, I had three children, got divorced and spent much of the following ten years just trying to keep bodies and souls together. Ten years after that, after getting remarried and two empty nests (my kids and his), I answered a call to pastoral ministry. In the process, of becoming a pastor, I returned to college to get my Bachelor’s Degree, so I could go to seminary and get my Master’s Degree.
Three college level composition classes and a Creative Writing minor, forced me to a certain level of discipline and devotion to writing. Now though, all my writing was assigned, to say nothing of sermons and newsletters.
There were times I felt like I was pushing out the toothpaste that was left in the bottom of the tube. But in college and seminary, given a choice between writing papers or taking exams, I always chose the papers.
History papers, theater papers, and of course all the levels of creative writing class papers, theology papers, biblical studies papers; my papers had papers! Eight years after getting my Master of Divinity degree, I returned to seminary for a Doctor of Ministry Degree and, you guessed it, more papers and a thesis.
Through all these years of writing, I did not give up the dream of publishing or getting published. I admit, I was disappointed to realize that I could not just publish my thesis as is, without a major rewrite. Shucks, I thought it was good and interesting (to a specific audience) and put that in the “maybe one day” category.
Pursing publishing, however, takes persistence and dedication and a lot more. In between getting degrees, I wrote sermons, newsletters and some things that I considered to be fun and hopefully informative. But I only wrote them when the inspiration hit. Still, I had no discipline, or plan, until Onset.
Walking and driving around Onset on those fall, rainy days in 2018 unleashed the floodgates in more than one way. The stories came, in waves, in torrents, rolling around in my head and heart as if they were big enough to contain the waters of Onset Bay and the Cape Cod Canal, Buzzards Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The memories too came in those persistent waves, until I realized the only way to deal with them was to write. To stop holding back the tide, to commit to making room for them in my day and allow them to spill onto paper. Written, not in pen and ink, but written in the salt water of the ocean and the salt water of tears, of gratitude and memory.
I still write sermons, I love to write sermons! I love biblical stories and characters. I love to read and listen to stories. I am in the car a lot and would be lost without “my” audiobooks and the opportunity to listen to writers who serve up a concoction of delicious words and amazing descriptions.
Writing may be a compulsion or a disease, for which the only cure is discipline and devotion. I have finally resolved to do what the sign on my wall says, and “write something every day!” To let those pesky thoughts out onto paper, before they die of solitary confinement. And so I write, because at 70 years old, I am
Not holding back the tide,
Copyright 2020 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com