I was three years old when I taught myself to read. The youngest of 6 children in a dysfunctional home, the kids were on their own without nurturing from either parent. Comfort lay in the amazing stories in hand-me-down books that I was glad to receive.
The first book I read was Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. At my age I recognized that an important element was missing but couldn’t define it. It wasn’t until I read the next book, Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman that I understood what a real story was about. Although I was too young to explain it, I knew that Hop on Pop lacked a plot and substance. Finally, I came across the gem, the one that intrigued and inspired the writer within.
The Passion Ignited!
Go, Dog. Go!, another great story by P.D. Eastman, hit me like my first Steinbeck novel did a dozen years later. I was blown away. Not only was the book full of literally colorful characters, but it added a new dimension to my reading experience. In and out of multiple dog adventures, from a canine party on a tiny sail boat to working on a crane, a young dog couple meet in passing. She dangerously flirts, flashing him with fancy hats, but it’s not enough to win his affections.
This flirtation goes on until the end of the story, when a big dog party takes place in a giant tree, and herein lies the moment when I discovered that I wanted to write stories of my own. The cartoon drawings in the book are one dimensional against a white backdrop. It’s up to the reader to see through the white canvas background. Beyond the giant tree where the party takes place the road disappears into a pinpoint on the horizon and I wanted so desperately to know where the road led. My imagination filled in the blanks and more.
Now here’s the next best part. Out of nowhere, the female dog appears with the most atrocious hat ever, filled with spiders, potted plants, and party favors. She asks the male dog, “Do you like my hat?” He is utterly thrilled and smitten with both her and the hat, filled with all things like a dowry that she has to offer in exchange for his love and protection.
At the end of the book, the male and female drive off into the sunset and that makes Go, Dog. Go! the first romance I ever read. And of course, I wouldn’t know for decades that writing served me as a way to escape the brutal realities of a childhood that no one should have to endure.
But What Will People Think?
I hid my stories for fear of rejection until my mid-twenties, always concerned about judgment and criticism. I didn’t give myself permission to pursue writing as a profession until my late thirties. Over two decades later I have a fiction and a non-fiction book contract, as well as an addiction to perfecting my craft. (Please don’t do the math!)
Perhaps I intuitively knew at a young age that I needed a voice to express the chaotic institution called family and all the suffering it meant for me. Since I didn’t feel heard, the written word became my preference of communication.
A passion should never be held at bay and put in favor of something we feel we “should” be doing. I was called to be a writer and strongly feel that my writing is making a strong contribution to those who allow themselves to be inspired by what they read. Writing makes me feel like a better person and lets me see beyond the horizon.
Does your career fulfill your passion? What is it that you’re doing and what inspired you to get started?