The Creation of a New Me
September Creative Humans Prompt: Creating as a Child
My father was a voracious reader, a book always beside his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. My two older sisters did not inherit his reading gene. But, I did.
Reading was like breathing to me. I didn’t think it special or unusual although I knew I did more of it than my sisters, who did almost none, and more than most of my friends. It simply was what my father and I did, no different than the bowls of ice cream he and I craved.
My mother died when I was an infant. I had a stepmother long enough for her and my father to produce a daughter, my father’s fourth, and then she and my baby sister moved far away. My father, raising three daughters and running a business, only had enough leisure time for reading, but I knew, and I’m not sure how I knew, that he was a good writer. The only memory I have of reading anything he wrote was when my older sister’s father-in-law passed and my father wrote a stirring and compassionate letter to her mother-in-law, a woman who never completed high school and didn’t understand most of his flowery language. But, I did. I read the letter and cried because it was so touching.
My writing gene was stirred when I was ten years old. I was reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin and felt inspired by the poetic chapter titles, names like A Difference in Hearts, Wisdom’s Ways, Color of Roses, and Gray Days and Gold. I took a pencil and paper and began writing poems based on each of the chapter titles. Once each chapter was a poem, I stopped writing and didn’t start again until I was twelve.
Our class assignment was to write an essay about Christmas. I ignored the word essay and wrote a poem instead, hoping it would be accepted by my teacher who demanded strict obedience to instructions. She loved it — all 20 verses of it. Loved it enough to have me read it to each class in our school.
Other than those chapter poems when I was ten, I only wrote when assigned. My papers and poems received high marks and praise, but I never thought of my writings as creative — I suppose because they were assigned as work and because writing was required in school. Music wasn’t required. Art wasn’t required. So, those things, in my mind, were creative. What I did was simply schoolwork. I wasn’t creative; I was a good student.
As a young adult, I wrote only occasionally — no, that is not true, I wrote very, very infrequently — mostly a few love poems for my then-husband early in our marriage, usually as gifts when cash was too tight to buy presents for birthdays or anniversaries or Christmases.
I envied those with stunning voices or those who created beauty on canvas or who gave birth to music by strumming, drumming, tickling keys, and blowing. Those were the real creatives, the real artists, and I longed to be like them. But, I’m tone-deaf, can’t draw a recognizable stick figure, and failed at my one attempt to learn an instrument — my flute was relieved when I sold it to someone with actual talent, someone who was a true creative.
Now, I look back and wonder at the root of my erroneous thinking. I read. I love to read. I think of the books I read as creative and as art. But, my writings — nah, those were scribblings of no weight, importance, or creativity.
Age brought a stronger urge to write but time was short — I worked, and still work, long hours, and I was helping to raise my grandchildren. I had important things to do and writing wasn’t important. Besides, who would read it?
I assisted with my grandchildren’s homework, trying to convince them that reading and learning to write well would make them smarter, more interesting, more informed, and more creative.
Whoa, here I was telling the kids that writing was creative when I didn’t believe that about my own writing!
At sixty, I started to think differently about my writing — the writing I no longer did. Perhaps, it was creative. Perhaps, I was an artist of sorts.
Except I wasn’t because I wasn’t writing.
I have an excellent memory. In fact, members of my family rely on me to keep their memories because they can’t. But, oddly, I have no memory of how I discovered Medium. I know it was in November of 2016, after the dreadful election, after I stopped watching the news and reading newspapers, after I inactivated my Facebook account.
Sometime after all those afters, I was on Medium. I was writing. Tentatively, slowly, shyly. But, little by little, I reclaimed the creative power of writing. Along with that came an expansion of my photography, which once was only to record vacations and holidays, and soon became a second creative outlet.
My writing as a child did not feel creative but now it feels like the creation of a new me.
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