Reviewing my Duotrope profile today (a site that I highly recommend), I see that maybe there’s something to me after all, as a writer.
I really gave myself permission to take this seriously in September. When I was in school, I always enjoyed the writing assignments, and several teachers were generous with praise. But I never took it seriously, because “I am an artist“.
So backwoods ignorant that I didn’t know you are allowed to be more than one thing in the world.
Growing up, I was surrounded by…ahem…characters. “Character”, by the way, is a Southern euphemism for any individual pulled from the grab-bag of eccentrics, faded gentry, desperate schemers and run-of-the-mill lunatics that can be found on any given day in my home town, family being no exception. As a teen, I think people suspected I might be taking notes. And they were right.
My mother was terrified of what I might reveal. She hammered it in pretty hard…”Kathy, don’t you know anything?! You don’t ever write anything down!! That’s how they get’cha!” With her sketchy dalliances in the criminal underworld, to her, all writing was “evidence”. She was right, in her way.
So, I wrote, but about, as she put it, “nice things”. Teachers said I had excellent penmanship. And I painted a great many unicorns and insipid, doe-eyed girls holding dewy roses.
At twenty-one I found myself tearing through the tri-state on the back of a Harley Davidson. To make the rebellion complete, I started writing about real things. One thing the biker way of life teaches…no one wants to hear any B.S., and that suited me just fine. So I wrote about what life was really like for me, and I painted things that were true for me and it felt great.
But I put it on the back burner when my son came along. I was very eager to share art with him, but I quickly realized that he wanted to do his own thing. Not wanting to screw up motherhood, I backed off immediately, and instead encouraged the thing he was naturally inclined toward. It turned out to be writing. As a teen, he became very serious about it. He won awards and I was terribly proud. And I didn’t write anymore, because I knew it would be weird. No teenage boy who wants to write wants his mom doing it, too. That would be lame. 🙂
So I held off some more. He entered college, and my mother went…where people go when they do those things, and I suddenly realized that I had no more excuses. So last September, I finally gave myself permission. Since then, I’ve completed and submitted several poems and four short stories. I’ve got two stories half-finished, and then there’s that novel. Believe me, those characters sit down beside me every day and tell me things. Terrible things, and they want me to tell.
That’s what you have to do, eventually. Just give yourself permission to tell. Just curl your lip at the world and say “I’m allowed.”
And write down all the really shocking bits first. Write the ones that could get you cut out of a will. Write down that story about which you were told, long ago, “You can’t breathe a word about this, do you hear?” Breathe words. Breathe a lot of words. Because you’ll suffocate if you don’t.
All words and images copyright Kathy Ferrell 2013.