Where I’ve been, why I changed course, and where I’m going
People say we all have an inner knowing. A small voice inside that guides us along the way. That nudge that says “you really should be nicer to your brother” or “offer a smile to the person across the room”. All we have to do is tap into it. Easy, peasy. Right?
On one hand, I have to confess that my inner voice seems to spend half its time on vacation and the other half blaring rock music through a set of JVC headphones. Or maybe those are reverberations from my teenage years…
On the other hand, maybe it’s not the inner voice that’s missing in action. Maybe it’s not enough to hear that voice, but a matter of tapping into its presence and following through on the wisdom it provides. That, my friend, is not always easy peasy.
Since I was a child, I’ve had unquenchable thirst for stories and connections. I marveled at how the right story could bring a sense of belonging to someone who felt left out in the cold. How the right words could generate smiles and laughter and connect our souls, and how a sense of belonging and acceptance could trump just about anything.
Throughout my formative years I wrote, acted, sang and played music. I dreamed of ways to bring joy to the world and imitated those who were out there making things happen—Erma Bombeck and Nora Ephron, Gilda Radner and Carol Burnett—and believed it was my destiny to follow suit.
Oh how I wanted to be like them.
Except that the outer voices in my world—the nay-sayers—insisted that the creative life was reserved for others. The creative life was for the anointed ones and the well-positioned and the affluent big wigs in the big cities. As for me, I would need to find a respectable career, thank you very much. Something that would pay the bills and provide a 401K. While the money-making part was a no-brainer, the rest of that scenario offered me nothing outside of certain boredom, and it clearly wasn’t in keeping with my inner voice.
Nevertheless I landed in architecture by way of engineering. Because that was what I was supposed to do. And because the connection between architecture and writing is glaringly obvious (she says with great sarcasm).
Alas, there are only so many times one can draw interior elevations of the same grocery store chain or restaurant before the T-Square bends and the pencil dulls. For me, it took about a decade.
Luckily, about that time a new neighbor moved in next door to my house. As fate would have it, she was a university journalism and communications counselor, no less. (Of course she was.) In a matter of months, I was back in college pursuing a degree in journalism.
My plan was to go directly from journalism school to book deal. But we all know what they say about the best laid plans. So for the next 20 years, most of my work appeared in newspapers or magazines. Whenever I had the chance, I also wrote essays on life.
That’s where I came alive.
But a funny (not haha) thing had happened over the years. I’d grown far too serious for my own good. I was convinced that if the world was to take me seriously, I’d have to do serious work. I’d need to wear my glasses on the edge of my nose and wear my hair in a tight bun and have discussions about all that was wrong with the world.
Now for all of you who’ve been paying attention, I’m sure you can see that this new me bore no resemblance at all to the Roseanne Roseannadanna me. But these are the sorts of things that happen when we stray off course and tell that inner voice that we know more than it does. In keeping with my newfound serious journalist hat, I wrote a book about war—and it doesn’t get much more serious than that. I found a publisher and we were off to the races. It would be my claim to fame and my notice to the world that I had arrived. It would be my opus.
Until it wasn’t.
Looking for home
The months that followed were heavy with the fog of disappointment and anger. Which is weird because the book was well-received. Something was missing, though, and I felt almost empty inside. As each day passed, I found myself pulling further away from writing, as if I were a jilted lover. I resented my craft and hurt it had inflicted on me.
I hadn’t left writing, I reasoned. Writing had left me.
Those were the voices of desperation, of course—voices that sent me on one wild goose chase after another, exploring paths that had little—okay, nothing—to do with writing. Which is probably about the time I was growing accustomed to visiting rock bottom.
The long (and winding) road
I couldn’t tell you when I decided to start over. At least not with any precision. I don’t recall an epiphany or grand awakening. And not the first blink of a flashing neon sign. Because that would be too easy.
But I started hearing those whispers of inner knowing. And they sounded an awful lot like those whispers from my youth. So I started following clues, first by returning to the scene of the crime, er, writing. I started paying attention—really paying attention—to what I enjoyed writing, and what I didn’t. I reflected and examined and questioned and analyzed. Every day, I saw my future direction a little more clearly.
I found one of Nora Ephron’s books at the bottom of my left side nightstand. I couldn’t tell you how long it had been there—long enough for me to have forgotten I owned it—but I could tell you I felt as if it had been waiting for me. As I picked it up and flipped through the pages, I knew I’d found my way home.
Fellow writer Jeff Goins said that real writers don’t write for recognition or fame, accolades or notoriety.
“They write for the love of writing,” he said. “Because if they were not writing, they wouldn’t know what to do.”
So it was that I began this blog where I can tell stories.
I’d like to offer a few laughs and an encouraging word along the way. To remind you that I’m okay, and you’re okay, even when our deepest fear may be that we aren’t. At times we may engage in deep discussions and rabbit hole excursions. I may even need to balance my glasses on the tip of my nose, from time to time.
Wherever the adventure leads, I know one thing for certain: I’ll be here writing wherever we go. Because if I’m not writing, I won’t know what else to do.