Trying to find a voice - any voice!
My dream to become a writer was born late at night under my blankets reading Grace Livingston Hill with a flashlight. My expectations were low.
And then I entered high school, Mennonite Educational Institute, and was introduced to Literature -- most notably, Mr William Shakespeare. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I wanted to emulate his words so badly.
So I found a recording of his complete work, his tragedies, comedies and historic plays. While my friends were listening to music, I was listening to Shakespeare -- simply because I loved the sound of a Shakespearean actor speaking those poetic and profound words.
Early in high school, I was asked to write a drama based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. I have no idea how this opportunity came about or how I actually accomplished it. I just know that it was the highlight for me -- taking such a marvelous play -- interpreting it into my contemporary world... and then coaching my friends how to act in it. I remember standing in the back -- watching -- and it was amazing.
All through high school I continued to devour the classics, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, and Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. After each book, I would sit back and feel my stomach churn. I would never measure up. They were brilliant.
But even if I couldn't write these books, I could savor every moment of them, which I did, so much so, one of my sisters told me that she could tell which book I was reading by my words, and my new persona.
My next break came at summer camp where I wrote another play for my cabin, based on one of the Old Testament stories that I knew so well -- thanks to my father. Again, it was an amazing feeling to be standing in the back, watching my cabin mates act out my words.
However, as exited as I was about these opportunities to write drama, I knew that I didn't want to be a playwright -- I wanted to be a novelist.
About this time, I do remember reading a completely different kind of book -- those about life experiences, like Anne Frank. I cried and cried through her book. I immediately sat down and started my own journal -- but I was again disappointed that my life just wasn't dramatic enough.
Just in case I am leaving the impression that it was only about writing -- it wasn't. I loved my friends -- and my cousins. Most of my teenage memories are about hanging out with them. And none of them had any interest in literature -- much less writing. My secret writing desire was part of a secret life.
After graduating from high school, I went directly to Bethany Bible Institute to continue my other much more acceptable and understood interest -- the Bible.
Being again involved in a very exciting social life, I didn't do much new writing here either -- except for one poem which was published in the school newspaper. I think I was friends with the editor. The poem was a metaphor about a lake -- a lake that was inviting and shiny on the surface but ran deep, and was dark, cold and mysterious.
I was simply trying to say that beneath the surface, I had deep, dark, mysterious emotions that even I couldn't understand.
But the reactions to the poem took my breath away. One fellow thought it was about our deep love for each other -- and I didn't even know about this love. My roommate thought it was about us. Another friend thought it was a critique about her.... It was dangerous business writing poetry!
I remember taking the poem to my father -- and asking him to read it and to tell me what he thought I was trying to say.
He was the only one who got it right. But he wasn't terribly impressed with it either. He didn't say it was good or even thought provoking. He just couldn't understand why it wasn't clear to everyone.
But by this time, I think he had realized my love of writing. He had stumbled across my old Underwriter typewriter, clued into my secret life and decided to let me pick out a new portable typewriter as a gift.
I did pick one out in the store. I loved him even more for it. But sadly, it was never as comfortable as that old Underwriter. So I kept both going -- and I never did tell him.
I also didn't have the heart to tell him that I didn't think I had the talent to write anymore. I had the desire -- definitely -- I just didn't have the gift. I decided that it would be much easier to want to be a missionary instead -- or at least a pastor's wife.
Around this time, I was falling in love with a "wanna be" pastor, my husband to be.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway