I think I must have always been a writer. I think it’s something you’re born with. Part of you that is lying in wait. Patiently, quietly, waiting. Eventually, it awakens, stretching it’s arms and looking around, bleary eyed… blinking in confusion before the realization settles in… I am home.
I was in the third grade. Her name was Ms. Abraham. She was the anti-teacher. She was a rebel in a school of proper, southern, cardigan-wearing teachers. She was statuesque in front of the green chalkboard. Gum popping between her red painted lips. She was loud. Brash. She would roll her eyes and tease us while still commanding our respect. I felt more at home in her classroom than in any other. Her unique brand of sarcasm and affection and high expectations were both exhilarating and comforting to my eight year old brain.
She introduced me to writing. Creative writing was a staple in her lesson plans. The rules were simple. Use correct spelling and grammar. Other than that? Write about whatever you want. We would cut pictures out of magazines and use them for inspiration for a story. The lack of rules was confusing at first. The freedom to do whatever we wanted was unsettling. It was perfect.
My writing soul was born in that classroom.
I didn’t keep extensive journals or write a novel on the rainy summer days of my youth. I spent my free time reading, listening to music and running around the neighborhood with my friends. But I was writing, constantly writing in my mind.
I would lay on the floor of my room and daydream for hours while I listened to my favorite albums. I would concoct stories inspired by the songs. I could spend an entire day like that. Lost in my own mind.
I would rest a dog eared book on my stomach after devouring it and replay words and phrases over in my mind. Marveling at the sequences that rolled off the page and became a part of my thoughts, seeds of future inspiration.
I would lay in bed at night, never able to fall asleep at a decent hour. I would stare at the streetlight that filtered through my metal blinds and replay events of the day, editing and re-phrasing conversations, scripting and narrating.
I had scribbled notes and half stories and partially filled notebooks. But most of my writing took place in my head. Permanence was not a concern. It was the exercise that I was seeking, not documentation.
In college I slid between majors looking for my place. I dabbled in Biology and Journalism before finally settling on an English Major. My desire to indulge in classes that involved reading and writing drowning ideas of practicality. I told myself I’d get a job writing after college. I pictured myself working in a busy magazine office, surrounded by people who loved words as much as I did.
What I found was that getting paid to write usually involves paltry freelance fees that wouldn’t support a broke post graduate.
My desire to write became a notion. A luxury that would have to be set aside while I paid the rent and student loan bills and tried to avoid eviction from my apartment.
But it was still there. I was still narrating in my mind. I was still daydreaming and imagining how I would “write” whatever was happening in my life. I would relish road trips. Hours to drive with nothing but music and the wind and my thoughts.
Then life started moving fast. There was no time to actually write. There was work and marriage and then children. I thought less and less about my dreams of writing and focused fully on raising my children. Instead of listening to music for hours, I consumed parenting books and studied learning techniques and tried to create a warm home for my family. I could have made time to write. But for the first time since third grade I had little desire.
That all changed a few years ago.
I was driving by myself, I had the windows down and the music turned up. My music was on shuffle when the song shifted. An abrupt shift in tempo had me reaching to skip the song, but I paused.
Slow streams of music filled the car, begging me to listen. I slipped into a warm bath of words and sounds. I was transported.
I was back in third grade, running through neighbors’ back yards. I was back in my bedroom laying on the floor with my headphones on listening to music. I was back in the woods lounging in a makeshift fort telling stories with my friends, making plans for mischief.
The lyrics broke through the veneer of mom and wife and carpool driver. I listened to poetry playing out in haunting melody, the words swirling through the air like blue smoke, the tendrils finding their way to me. I breathed in the words and felt my eyes burn. Tears started spilling over, trickling down my cheeks. I laughed as I wiped away the tears. I hit repeat and took the long way home, not ready to let the feeling go yet. The song… the words… they stirred me. They opened up a part of me that I had filed away for future use.
My writing soul had been gently nudged awake.
I needed to have words in my life again. I needed to write. I needed to take the voice that had been accompanying me all these years and put it on paper.
I started writing. I wrote chapters that I had been composing in my head for years. I started writing for an audience and terrified myself with the thoughts of eyes reading my words. I started fretting over cliches and phrases and obsessing over what to write about. I felt nauseous the first time I hit Publish.
I still do. I feel nerves and fear and extreme vulnerability every time I publish.
But I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep listening to music that inspires me. Music that is written with pain and passion and longing. Artists that turn phrases that have my head spinning in admiration and envy.
The more I write, the more I find myself returning to what always sustained me. I will lay on the floor after my evening workout with my headphones on, lost in a song. I’ll brush off the thoughts of dishes piled in the sink waiting for me. I’ll take the long way home to feel the wind on my face and absorb the music. I’ll brush off my to do list for a few more moments of nourishment. I sit at my laptop and shuffle through my music until a song plays that has me feeling… something.
Music has always been my compass. It’s guided me through pain, through heartbreak, through grief. It’s been the salve for open wounds and the outlet for seething anger. It’s been the inspiration I was seeking.
It woke me from a long sleep. It reminded me of who I am. Of where I belong.
I am home.