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Seeing Myself as a Writer

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

Throughout the years, I have had difficulty seeing myself as a writer. While my first endeavors were applauded as only family members can for the fledgling poet, there was still that unspoken agreement that eventually I would grow out of it and settle upon a “real” career. I can’t’ remember a time I wasn’t writing things down, in some kind of literary form, whether it was a poem, a diary/journal entry, or a scrap of an idea on a scrap of paper.

My first taste of the kind of recognition writers can receive and the feeling of empowerment it can inspire occurred in a Grade 6 English class when my poem, The Drifter,  about the moon, was read out in class.

A yellow ball floating on high,
Drifting into the azure sky,
The moon, sailing free and alone,
A Cheshire cheese in the great unknown.
Wispy clouds about its face,
Shining through cobwebs of silvery lace.

Just as an aside, it also turned out to be the watershed of my attempts at rhyming poetry. I never did manage to attain such fluidity or grace after the success of this poem (it was published in the yearbook), once I discovered the freedom and ease of free verse.

And then I joined the staff of the newspaper of the university I attended. I wrote for the college paper three of the four years I studied there; my fourth year I ended up as editor. It was one of the best experiences of my life largely due to the fact that I had never seen myself as a leader before. It also taught me a valuable lesson: a promotion wasn’t necessarily a promotion – as editor I got to do very little actual reporting, which is what I loved to do (chasing the story, interviewing people and then writing the article).

After university, my taste for reporting wouldn’t go away. I tried applying to The Winnipeg Free Press and to The Winnipeg Sun, but they weren’t interested in an English major; they were after someone who had studied journalism. Still, I harboured dreams of winning a Pulitzer for writing a cutting-edge exposé. Not to be deterred, I sent some of my college newspaper articles to a Winnipeg community paper, and became a freelancer for them.

I had barely filed my third batch of stories with the community newspaper, when I picked up the phone and called The Winnipeg Sun again, informing them that I was a freelance writer for The Metro One and that I would like to write for them (where on earth did that determined young woman disappear to?). I freelanced for both papers for a number of years. But my victory at working for a major Manitoba newspaper would also be the end of my Pulitzer-prize winning dreams – it became clear to me that I was much better equipped at writing human interest stories than pursuing hard core news.

When I became tired of supporting myself on a freelancer’s paycheck, I started a career in the library field that continued throughout the years until I moved to Vancouver. Now, I’m a writer again; a freelance writer again. And instead of winning a Pulitzer, the dream of writing novels hasn’t been diminished over time. Seeing myself as a writer has been challenging enough, but envisioning myself as a novelist is even more so.


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