I’m fairly certain I first knew I wanted to be a writer sometime during my sophomore year of high school. I had always enjoyed writing for fun, but it was a commendation report from my English teacher Ms. Zinck that made me think I might be sort of good at it. To have a teacher send a positive letter to my parents, not because she had to, but because she just wanted to, gave me the self confidence to consider writing as a career. At sixteen, I decided that after college, I would move to Paris and be a writer/photographer. (By the way, if any of you out there knows of any job openings for that type of position, please contact me immediately.) It sounded like a good, if not all that plausible, plan at the time. I even took French in college almost racking up enough hours for a minor. I received my degree in Journalism with a minor in English, then I got married. Although Paris wasn’t meant to be, life looked promising. But I had a dark secret. While I had documentation in the form of a diploma from Texas A&M that claimed I was a writer, I was scared to write. Scared that no one would read my words. Or worse yet, scared that they would, in fact, read them, but would think that I wasn’t any good…that they would figure out that I was a fraud. My solution to this problem was to immediately return to school and get my teaching certificate, which allowed me to avoid doing the thing I both loved and feared.
Now before I offend anyone, let me quickly say, I am not one of those “those who can’t, teach” people. I believe that teachers are the most under-appreciated and underpaid professionals out there, with the most difficult and important job on the planet. My children have had wonderful teachers in St. Tammany Parish, and I am very grateful for all that they do. It’s just clear to me that I was never meant to be a teacher. I loved my students. I enjoyed the yearbook and newspaper especially, but I knew that teaching was not my calling.
I left the teaching world when I had my children, and my writing remained on hold while I played mom. Sure, I would occasionally bang something out on my Macintosh Classic, but the words would stay locked in that little machine where only I could read them. The old Mac was destroyed when we moved from Chicago back to New Orleans, and whatever I wrote during those years went with it to electronics heaven. I will always regret not printing out a copy of the story I wrote about our move from Mandeville to Chicago…a riveting tale of out-of-control pets, a raging blizzard, fireworks, and excessive vomit, among other treacherous and disgusting things. Not funny at the time, but hilarious in retrospect.
As my children entered school and established little lives of their own, I still had the desire to write, but my fear got the best of me. I ignored the call and threw myself into my part-time jobs…teaching fitness classes and summarizing records for an attorney. Yes, the summarizing job was technically a writing job, but there was no creativity involved. It didn’t scratch the writing itch, but it wasn’t scary either, as I was simply making someone else’s words sound a little more polished. No risk involved, whatsoever. Throughout the years, my husband and a few others would suggest that I try my hand at writing (pun intended), but I would dismiss them with a promise that I would give it a shot someday, even though I doubted that “someday” would ever come. It was a phone conversation with my dad a couple of years ago that finally got my attention. He told me that he knew I would write something someday, even if it wasn’t in his lifetime. I looked at my situation from a parent’s perspective, and I realized that it would break my heart a little if my children had dreams that died because they were too afraid to pursue them. For the first time, I actually began to give writing some serious thought. I still wasn’t ready to put myself out there, but the wheels were turning.
About six months ago, someone that didn’t know me well but knew my story, fears included, told me, not that I should write, but that I needed to write. There was something about a virtual stranger, someone in no way connected to me or my issues, suggesting this that finally got through to me. She suggested that I start a blog. She got me to understand that it didn’t really matter if two people or two thousand people read it…my writing would simply be an outlet for me. With her prodding and lots of encouragement from my husband, I wrote my first article in April of this year. It was both exhilarating and terrifying when I clicked the “publish” icon. There was no turning back. Well, there was “delete,” but I’m going for drama here. Much to my surprise, people aside from my immediate family actually read my story. I didn’t have an enormous audience, but along with my family members, some friends and even a few strangers checked out that first entry. It was exciting, and it made me want to do it again. A few more articles followed, and after taking most of the summer off, I discovered that I missed it, and I was ready to make it a more regular part of my week. I had never reached quite as many readers as I had with my first article, but I continued to have a small but steady stream of people who checked out what I had to say, and that was good enough. I made a deal with myself that I would continue to write, even if the only readers I had were named Clements or Simons.
My most recent entry was a little story about meeting Rick Springfield at the Joy Theater in New Orleans, a 30-years-in-the-making, dream-comes-true story. It was an extremely easy story to write because I was so passionate about the topic. At the suggestion of a friend, I sent the article to Rick Springfield’s fan page on Facebook. Assuming that nothing would come of it, I sat down on my couch and looked at my blog stats, noting that roughly fifty people had viewed my story. No surprise there. The couch was pretty comfy, and an “accidental nap” ensued. (I’m not sure why I continue to call those little naps accidental because I’m very aware of what is going to happen when I sit still for any length of time…my daily 4:30 a.m. alarm is brutal.) When I woke up an hour later with my computer still next to me, I glanced at the stats. More than 1600 views? Something had to be wrong. There appeared to be comments, too, which was equally surprising. In all of my previous entries combined, I had a total of six comments, and half of those were responses from me! I read one comment from a lady who said she had been directed to my page through Rick Springfield’s fan page. I had to look for myself, and there it was…the link to my blog. I went back to my stats…100 more views in just a matter of minutes. The story seemed to have struck a chord with fellow forty-somethings who shared my love for Rick. Throughout the evening the number of views continued to climb. By the time I went to bed, over 5000 Rick fanatics had checked out my blog.
While I realize 5000 views is small potatoes, for someone whose largest audience prior to this had been 183 readers (and let’s face it, all but two or three of those were friends and family), it felt like the world. I had found a little audience that had connected with my story, several telling me it felt like they could have written it themselves. I had some haters, too. One reader told me I was full of myself and another called me mean. Real writers sometimes offend people…right? I read and answered every comment, and I am sure I will reread them many times. It meant a lot that someone took the time to write something in response. I even apologized to the woman who called me mean. (Not to the other one, though. I found her really uptight…and she made a crack about my shoes!) Overall, I was thrilled and completely overwhelmed by what had happened with my little blog.
The numbers continued to increase the following day, though at a much slower pace. When the article reached somewhere near 7000 readers, it appeared to have run its course. I knew my two minutes of fame (it wasn’t even close to a being a big enough deal to call it fifteen) were up, and that was ok. It was enough that for 24 hours, people that didn’t know me and who didn’t feel obligated to read my work actually read it. For 24 hours I was a real writer. My daughter told me I might be a one-hit wonder, referencing a line from the Rick Springfield article. If that’s what I am, I’ll take it. I don’t mind being Men Without Hats or The Knack, or even Dexy’s Midnight Runners. (I really hope I’m slightly better than the Baha Men or Vanilla Ice, though.) And I’ll continue to write for myself and for anyone else who chooses to stop by and read. I plan to get back to writing about New Orleans, the city I love more than any other. It’s not Paris, but I think it’s no coincidence that I’m just a bridge away from the French Quarter.