You knew you wanted to be a writer when you read Nancy Drew in your backyard with the Go-Go’s playing on KFRC, a jar of jelly beans nearby, along with a Diet Coke. You are reading Nancy Drew books all summer long because Judy Blume read Nancy Drew. You love Nancy. Nancy can solve crimes, be a good friend to George and Bess, and be a good daughter to Carson Drew. One day you put the book down. You know what you are going to do with your life. You are going to be a writer. You love books. You love how they carry you through the rough patches, the times when you feel so sad. You love the fact that you read more books than anyone else in your class. You might have bad handwriting, and you can’t do double division, but you can read. This is something you are praised for. This is something that no one can take away from you.
You dictate stories to your mother about Skye Scarsbourugh, who is a tad like Nancy — only her father was dead, but her mother was alive. She lived in Northern California and had red hair. You have a problem though: You have to go back to school, for you’re only ten years old. Yes, you’re overly ambitious, but why not?
You go through the years determined that you will become a writer. You are a writer. This is what you tell people when they ask you what you’re going to be when you grow up. You tell them without thinking: a writer. Sometimes they try to discourage you. Writing is so hard, so much rejection. Well, hey, you can handle rejection. You survived the fact you had bad handwriting, acne, and middle school. Anything else is easy peasy.
You cling to things taught to you through the years. You write in notebooks, you type; you let yourself write bad drafts. You see people you know get awards, published. There are times you are down to your last dime, and you have no idea what to do next. Something always comes up; a forgotten five in a jacket pocket. Money you lent to a friend is paid back. Yet there are times when you feel like you will never get the brass ring. You will not have a house like Danielle Steel’s mansion. Also, it doesn’t look like you will have a family or get married. And, oh yeah, you have bad grammar.
The memory you cling to — the memory you still cling to that has gotten you through rough times — is one that happened to you in high school: You were tired of your writing voice, and you were wondering if maybe people were right, that you should look into a career at Target or 7-11. Then your creative writing teacher said that a girl in your class was having problems with her computer; could you go help her? Oh, why not.
You went to the computer lab, and the girl was waiting. You’d known her since junior high. She used to be a popular girl with feathered hair and stonewashed jeans; now she’d taken to wearing her hair back and wearing ponchos. She needed help with her Macintosh. This was problematic, for you were an IBM girl. Your mother worked for IBM, and you were on a learning curve with Word Perfect/DisplayWrite 4. But she looked worried, so you said to her, “What do you need?”
“I don’t know how to save it.”
“Okay, on the hard drive or your floppy?” You were trying to sound technical.
“Okay, go to the upper left hand corner, and a box will come up that says save, but make sure you tell it to save on the floppy.”
She saved it without a problem and then printed it out on the dot matrix printer. From a forbidden radio, you heard Michael Penn’s “No Myth” with the lyric what if I was Romeo in blue jeans? In the meantime, you figured you’d done your nice thing for the day. Now, you’d better get back to class and figure out if you will look good in that 7-11 smock and practice telling kids to stop looking at the magazines, this ain’t no library.
“Can you take a look at something I wrote?”
You looked at her, surprised. “Sure,” you said. You read her piece. It was good, very good. You told her what you liked, then gave some feedback on what needed to be fixed.
“Can you take a look at this?” she asked, taking a piece of paper from a folder. She was putting a stop on your plans for your pity party. But you read her piece, which again was very solid, very good. You told her that. She nodded. Then she said, “I, um, I really like your writing, you’re really good. It means a lot that you looked at my work.”
You sat there stunned. Any self-pity had gone away. If push comes to shove, maybe you will have to work at jobs you hate, jobs you’re overqualified for. But you will not stop writing. It’s in your blood.
You managed to thank her. You felt lightheaded, dizzy. You said, “I better go back,” and then you walked back to your class, knowing that something had happened to you. Michael Penn was still singing: what if I was Romeo in blue jeans/what if I was Heathcliff, it’s no myth/maybe she’s just looking for someone to dance with.