I’d never considered myself to be a writer.
In primary school my teacher sent a note home to my mother, telling her I had obviously copied a poem. It really was my own work. I felt confused.
I must have rated myself as bookish, because I took 3 Unit English. I was more determined to succeed when my teacher, PJ Hughes, told me I was not up to 3 Unit standard.
PJ Hughes knew what he was doing and it worked. I was soon writing essays for my University degree in English and Linguistics. I also wrote film scripts for fun and movie reviews for a weekly community radio show. But it didn’t occur to me that I was becoming a writer.
My first job out of university was producing and presenting a daily half hour television show. I was writing more than ever. Much of this was done at the dining table with my housemate, Edwina, on a Sunday night. She had thirty minutes of radio and I had thirty minutes of TV to fill–every day. A bottle of Mateus soothed our Sunday night writing loads.
I still didn’t identify as a writer. TV reporter yes, producer yes, writer…no.
I fell in love with and married… you guessed…a writer. He was a newspaper journalist. Our life together was becoming a world of words and soon to be more-so. But in my mind, print journalism trumped. He was the writer in the family.
I became an arts publicist. It was a great place for a writer to hide.
Whilst nursing my first child, a journalist friend gifted us about fifty second hand issues of The New Yorker magazine. If you didn’t know this magazine in its greatness, or don’t know it now; if you want to understand more about how writing works, read it.
With the many wakeful night hours of a new mother, I eventually read every one of those magazines cover to cover, twice – even the baseball stories! The subjects stopped mattering. The brilliance of the writing was touching me. I had fallen deeply in love with writing.
Within a few years, I was reading a freakish number of books for my first client. I had become the publicist of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Great writing excited me. I would know by the first paragraph of a book, here be treasure.
I rose to the occasion, achieving renown for my media campaigns about writers and books. But was I a writer? Are you kidding? I was a publicist!
And then, after my marriage ended, along came a lover who changed all this. He was a musician, a song writer. He was a performer who sang his own songs. I was in awe of his courage to sing his own songs in public. I told him I wanted to write, there were stories occupying my mind, demanding to be told, a way of thinking about the world that wanted its expression. I was full of doubt and excuses. He could see no reason for me to procrastinate.
So I began. At age 48, I became a writer. I began to believe in the power of my own voice to clarify who I am, share my journey, delight and vision.
Four years on: Today I was reading courageous new stories by the writers I am working with. I am a privileged mentor; editor and first reader of their work. In recent years I reinvented my publicity business and launched a writing program for business owners. Once I became a writer, everything changed.
Today I reflected on what I loved about my clients’ writing. There was my love of their stories: Telling me tales I would never otherwise hear. My love of them: Tell me more about yourselves, please. My love of their purpose: Allow me to understand your quest. They are learning to know and appreciate the reader: Bring us along, show us that we matter to you.
They will critique me in jest for this story. Have I written to all the standards I set for them? Maybe. But I will plead that I am blurred by love. My love of a good story, combined with my urge to share more of where I came from and where I am going (only for good reason!). And my unequivocal belief that each of us has potential to be love-in-action in a world that yearns for more people to know it. And my belief that good writing has the power to create impact and influence.
Last week my twenty-one year old daughter, the same child I nursed whilst reading New Yorkers, asked about taking a writing course. I heard myself say, “I can mentor your writing. I’d love to.”
Is writing anything less than a love affair?