Before I could read—I was a “writer.” Flashlight, paper, and pencil in hand, I’d drag my favorite blanket into my bedroom closet and there in the privacy of my hanging clothes, I covered countless pages with fantastic swirls and lines. I had no doubt. I was a writer.
Learning to read Dick and Jane posed no threat. Even Nancy Drew I perceived as achievable. It wasn’t until high school and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, that I succumbed to self-inflicted intimation. Over night I decided I could never be a writer, because I couldn’t write as good as John Steinbeck.
Thus I was inflicted with the toxic virus of “I Wish.”
Sigh, “I could never be like that.”
True. As long as I engaged in magical thinking—wishing—my dreams wouldn’t come true.
What I failed to realize in high school is that Steinbeck most likely wasn’t born just writing. He likely spent hours at the craft of it and wrote numerous drafts and rewrites. He probably suffered “bad” days and “writer’s block” at times. In fact, reading a history of Steinbeck I have since found, He traveled to New York City where he took odd jobs while trying to write. When he failed to have his work published, he returned to California and worked in 1928 as a tour guide and caretaker at the fish hatchery in Tahoe City.
In my own life it took decades of time and the best public speaker I’ve ever heard, Michael Brandwein, to turn “I Wish” into “What Are They Doing, How, and Why?” This is a question that once learned, I ask to this day. [Read more…]