When a Writer Is Born

I see my daughter close her diary, then run down to the kitchen to put the keys back in their hiding place. She can’t have her brother getting a peek again. After school, when homework is done, she wants computer time to type up stories about finding shells on vacations or blurbs about how much she loves her family.

She writes letters to family with run-on sentences about the owl in the backyard or the possum she sees at night. Who cares if she may be taking some creative license? Thank-you notes gush with love for an item, the color, the memory it evokes. Papers at school that require only a paragraph or two end up with pages and pages of her conversational tone, explaining in-depth our trip to Maine this summer or why bananas ripened in our kitchen.

Some mornings when it’s time for school, she shouts, “One more minute!” from her great-grandmother’s roll-top desk as she finishes up a letter, a story, a thought.

I both love and hate that she does that, has this need for writing. All my life when I’ve had an urge to communicate, it’s spilled out easily into words on a page. Flowed so fast my hand wasn’t able to keep up, the scratchy writing sometimes hard to decipher when I went back to read it again. My brain always moved too fast for my hands but there has always been a connection there, brain to hand.

The connection between my brain and my mouth is a different story. Words don’t flow from my mouth as easily. I am often quiet. Things come out all wrong or not at all. I am stumped for answers, for something touching when I need to be. Or words come out too quickly. I can’t take a moment to pause, speak, and go back and try again. Once I put spoken words out there, inappropriate as they are, they’re out there, unfiltered. But with paper or screen, words flow. Thoughts come. There’s no deleting, looking for the perfect word when you speak.

I remember as a child wishing I wasn’t the way that I was. I knew it had to do with writing. I felt like I sensed things differently, maybe I didn’t. I knew that I didn’t have to be famous or published to be a writer. I just was, in my heart, always. It was the way I had expressed every thing of my life.

I love that my daughter has that in her, that passion, that need. But I also hate it for her, that curse. That feeling that you just have to get it out. That you can’t go to sleep at night or leave the house or finish a conversation until you relieve yourself of the burden. Scrawl on scraps of paper or in a notebook in the car a thought, a story, an observation, a poem, a pain. Those words, those feelings. Those things you can’t say to anyone but your paper.

I was that girl. I still am. Before bed I scrawl a thought on a scrap of paper, sometimes never giving it another thought. Sometimes it’s the perfect ending I’ve been waiting for, for months, and it came to me while washing my face. I’ve poured my heart into journals. I’ve breathed life into dramatic teenage poems that I’d die if anyone saw. And I’ve shouted, “One more minute!” so I could finish a thought that just had to be written on paper instead of whispered in someone’s ear.

I’ve always thought that writing is a lonely life.

I hope she finds the courage to share hers long before I did.


These days, most of my writing is done via keyboard.



Filed under About Mom

25 responses to “When a Writer Is Born

  1. WhimsyComfits

    I think that writing is like a siren call; once heard it must be followed.

    I don’t know the age of your daughter, but perhaps she’d enjoy the “Emily” books by L.M. Montgomery; a kindred spirit ;-).

    • She is 8. I don’t know those books but I’ll have to look into them. She loves to read, one thing I wasn’t very into as a kid.

      And yes, a calling indeed. You can’t ignore.

  2. Lisa

    Yep, she’s your twin. I think its better than having the kid who has to write three sentences about the story she just read screams “I don’t know what to write” – really??

    • Well, I have to admit, I’ve done that too! I’ve had plenty of moments when I didn’t know what to write, mostly because I just didn’t want to write about that boring ol’ topic. 😉

  3. Neat the way she is following in your footsteps. Also, being a good writer doesn’t have to mean being a less than comfortable speaker.
    Neither my boys seem so interested in writing (at this point). It’s funny as both my wife an I are.
    Anyway, good luck to your daughter and her approaching writing career.

    • Yes, I’ll be curious to see whether she does anything with this, though both my husband and I would urge her to pursue a different career! We both went into journalism. My son looks like he’s headed toward math and science. There was a brief time, though, when he said he wanted to write.

  4. Oh, this is lovely. This is me. Only a great writer could make me feel that way.

    • I thought you’d know that feeling. Do you have “really great” bits of writing scribbled on your to-do lists too?

      • Yes! They’re all over the place. I’ve tried and tried to be organized about it and keep my random notes in one notebook, but you know–you just have to get it down while you’re thinking of it, on whatever is available. Now I use my phone more; I have about a million notes and texts to myself. Some, like you say, I haven’t looked at again. But it still felt good to get it down.

      • Yes, it’s a purging. When I was younger, I found if I just got it out, I felt much better. Now, the things I have to get out are much different, but I still itch to get them out. There’s much more excitement in it now, like “Oh yes! That’s the thing I needed!” Before it was all more about feelings and lots of poetry. I haven’t written a poem in twenty years and that is how I used to always express myself. I’m scared to read them now, all that stupidity involved with being young. 😉

  5. I also share you and your daughter’s curse. Sometimes a blessing, sometimes a handicap but, always a talent 🙂 I adore your post.

    • Thanks! I most certainly wouldn’t trade it now, but I remember some teenage years when I felt like I “felt” more and just wrote all the time, everything was inward. It was the bleak period. Drama. 😉 Looking forward to that with my daughter. Ha!

  6. It is a blessing, indeed! I absolutely love that feeling I get when I have an idea or thought that NEEDS to be written down. It is so energizing. Often at night when I am taking a shower and unwinding, a thought will come and my heart starts racing until I get it down. Its like a mad rush to get out and dried off. Love it!

    • The shower is the place where I write most of my posts. And I can never get out and dried off fast enough to start typing. The other hot spot is the car. Something about driving down the road and not being able to write sparks something.

  7. It sounds perfect to me, actually. You can change words that you write, you can’t change the ones you say. It is good practice to be able to formulate thoughts.

    And being quiet does not necessarily translate into being lonely. Nor does it stay that way. I was a very quiet shy kid. Now I never shut up. Of course, not everybody thinks that is a good thing!

    • I just always felt like my being quiet and reflective and having to write all the time made for a lonely life sometimes. I couldn’t always say what I needed to say but I could write it. And sometimes that was hard because I was aware that I didn’t want proof of my feelings written down on paper! That’s one good thing about spoken words. Sometimes, you can deny them. 😉

  8. Lonely, perhaps, but at least she is able to express herself in a healthy way instead of aggression or other means that kids usually use. So brilliant. Also good to hear the negatives of this approach though I would never have thought of it like this. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes, I think you’re right. Being able to pinpoint feelings and express them at all is a good thing for a child. Being on the other side of this, watching my child, I can see that it does actually help her deal with things, knowing what it is she is feeling. It helps her connect feelings to events and say, Maybe I’m feeling sad because this happened. Sometimes just knowing that helps. It actually took me a long time to figure that out for myself. 😉

  9. While writers may be quiet, they often safeguard their relationships because they can vent onto a blank page instead of onto a person. One you can just wad up and throw away; the other you can never take back.

  10. I too think it is a blessing, with down-sides, sure, but still a blessing. She will never be bored as long as she finds a scrap of paper and a pen. Writing things down also gives feelings a name. By reading them again one can sometimes find a perspective not seen before. I know that sounds a lot for a young girl, but I am sure she will learn that. And maybe you can help her with the difficult sides of it? Talking to her about moments when it is best to write and moments when it is better to talk? She is lucky to have such an understanding mother!

    • I think she just may teach me something! It is pretty neat to have this unspoken bond with your child. She is like me in a lot of ways. Sometimes I think we can just look at each other and know. But you’re right, a perspective not seen before. That’s important.

  11. This is so beautiful! My daughter is 4 and she can’t wait to understand all the words in her books and be able to read to her little brother. It’s great to share your passions with your children, it’s a true joy in life!

  12. keepitlit9109

    Reblogged this on The Unseasoned Observer and commented:
    Exactly how I feel about writing.

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