Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Part 3

I've often wondered why I tackled becoming a writer. Honestly, I haven't got the fabulous educational background of many of the writers I admire. Nope. I didn't go to Yale or Harvard. In my life before I became I writer, I didn't hold a job as a lawyer, doctor, anthropologist, television anchor or other some such type of illustrious career. Nope. I was lucky to get my degree in elementary education by the time I was 27. I worked a few years in radio and television and private education, but I never built a career.

I learned only two things about myself during the few years I dealt with corporate America: I hate office politics and I hate wearing pantyhose to work.

Any rate, after a few years of trying to climb the corporate ladder and bumping my head on a very low ceiling, I had a baby and I decided busting my stockings to get a promotion wasn't as eternal as raising a beautiful child. I've never regretted the decision.

When she entered the 4th grade, I rediscovered my earlier passion for writing. And that's what I've been mucking around doing ever since I dusted off my first attempts at writing a novel. I've learned a lot about writing and craft from my writing comrades, RWA, my writing chapters, more books than I care to admit I own and on-line workshops.

But the doubts and the questioning never leave me. Who am I to take on this task when I have such a muddled background? Do the words "I'm not worthy" ever cross your mind? They cross mine. They jump around my brain whenever I learn about that writer's degree in literature, or her illustrious career in technology and the writer who once wrote speeches for the President. Okay? Now that's a big scary deal for me.

So why do I even attempt this crazy adventure? I haven't got a Masters degree in anything, I haven't worked in a real job since 1994, and I didn't grow up in a family that bothered to nurture my talents. Nope. I had to fight for every success I had and that's where the chutzpah to write lives. My scrappiness.

I learned a lot about life in a different college: the college of hard knocks and streetwise living. I've been on my own since I was 16 years old. I fought to get my GED and, after my DH married me, I taught myself the SAT with a big book of tests. I entered university, got scholarships and busted my buns to finish my degree in less than 4 years (my DH had married me for my, uh, cooking ability, not my education as I had none to speak of other than the GED).

I may not have any experience tackling corporate giants or winning cases in the courtroom, but I know how to flip a burger, pump gas, make beds, clean hotel rooms, assist the elderly and nurture children. I can type faster than most secretaries. I've knocked back beer in an Ice Shack in Houston, and I've hobnobbed with Nobel Prize winners while sipping Kir Royale. I've played pool with biker chicks, and I've hosted dinner parties for distinguished scientists. I've sat in a bar outside of Phoenix and chatted with the locals about the humidity. I've canoed down the Dordogne and toured castles. I've slept in a pup tent next to the Redwoods. I've flown first class to Europe.

I've had nothing. I've experienced everything.

When I was eighteen, if you opened my fridge, you'd find a large 7-11 Slushy and a potato. I've dated guys because they paid for my dinner and I was hungry. I've eaten 8 course meals in Sarlat, France. I've known extreme loneliness, the kind where I've considered rushing off a balcony of a twentieth floor high rise because who would care if I was gone? I've known extreme joy, the kind where I've wanted to bottle the bubbling happiness and cork it so I can pop it open, and let it stream over me when I am sad again.

Today I am thankful for my life. For all of it. For the ugly chunks of my childhood, for the brief glimmers of joy even then. I mine the coals of hurt, pain, frustration, anger and bitterness for my stories. I  open the shell surrounding my heart and draw out pearls of ecstasy to endow my characters with abiding joy.

I'm grateful for the natural talents and intelligence given to me, but I am actually more thankful for being forced to live in circumstances that brought me to my knees, humbled. I am grateful because I believe my street education, and my ability to transcend that background, have given me an opportunity to give back the greatest gift I've received: HOPE.

My stories are about two people finding each other and discovering home. Today I'm grateful I found my hero. Today I'm grateful we created our own safe place to fall.


Ellen B said...

Hi, I found your blog through Kristin Nelson's Pub Rants and I just wanted to say this is a really inspiring and interesting post, and you sound like a really interesting person.

For the record, I have a Masters' degree in English. Didn't teach me a bloody thing about how to write :) Luckily I did it for other reasons. . . Life is what teaches us to write. That and reading good books.

Christine said...

Hi Ellen, thanks for stopping by. I admire anyone who has a Masters degree. It's hard work. But it's life experiences that give us the material we need to mine for our words. And reading good books! I love to read. I think the books I read as a child/teen helped me believe in myself. They inspired me to believe in the impossible becoming possible.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Christine: Every experience is valuable for you and for writing, but you don't need a degree to be a writer! You just need creativity and passion, and characters who'll talk to you. ;-)

The degrees might be impressive if we're working in our field, but how does a technical degree help me be a good writer? It doesn't! The only thing it offers is background for a hero or heroine's occupation, and some job experience.

Your stories don't come from school, they come from the heart. Not even a PhD could change that.

Martha W said...

"Today I'm grateful I found my hero. Today I'm grateful we created our own safe place to fall."

And right there is the reason you'll do so well. You're writing (even on a blog) is powerful and wonderful. And you are truly spectacular at encouraging others - I'll even forgive you for making me tear up. *wipes eyes*

Great thoughts, Christine!

Christine said...

Hi Gwen: Thanks for your kind words. You're right. Ultimately, it is our life experiences that hone our writing hearts. And those people in our heads! I just wish my two from the second MS (never really revised that puppy) would please stop nagging me so I can quickly learn how to write the suspense elements in this WIP.

Hi Martha: thanks for your thoughts. Glad I hit a nerve, but sorry you "teared up." *Passing tissues* :) I enjoy reading your excerpts on your blog. And your words that you go over. Makes me think -- :)

Penny Rader said...

Wow. Your post is quite inspiring. I love your pluckiness. It's a quality I wish I had. May you have much success in your writing career. I imagine your stories are truly amazing.

I never went to college, but several of my kids did/are (1 graduated, 1 is a single mom working and working on her bachelor's, and 1 is my son who will probably have his bachelor's in a couple more semesters).

Christine said...

Hi Penny, thanks for your kind words. I am so impressed by the blessings you have bestowed upon your children! Wow--this is something they probably appreciate but don't even know really how amazing having a mom want them to succeed is.... yah.. run on sentence... I am notorious for this habit (in emails etc). But wow, thanks for sharing and I hope only the best for you and yours!

I told a Critique Partner: never kill someone's dream. Let them dream. You're letting your children dream... a gift.