When my youngest son told me that his final assignment for his college writing class was to write a response to the question, “What kind of writer am I?,” my heart soared. I wanted to write that response. Not for him. But, for myself.
I’m not sure if every writer feels this way, but I love to consider this question. I ponder what kind of writer I thought I would be, and what kind of writer I have become. The answer is somewhat different than what I originally thought.
My desire to be a writer began when I was ten years old. I received my first blank book with a dark rose, corduroy fabric cover that Christmas. I started with my own story, my life as I knew it. It began something like “It was a hard life for me….” I simply shake my head when I think about how little I truly understood about that statement. Certainly I have experienced challenging situations since I was ten. But, a hard life? Not compared to some. I don’t think my ten-year-old self believed that line either. That first blank book endeavor remains short and unfinished.
The following summer I moved on to short stories. But, again, I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. It’s important to research beyond what might be learned in fourth-grade social studies class. Also characters are essential for a sustainable plot, and it isn’t always best to kill most of them off.
I tried writing a novel. But, I couldn’t sustain the mystery of my mystery even with an outline. A young adult novel seemed rather insipid from a junior-high perspective.
Then one day–when I was taking my not-so-hard life particularly hard–I wrote a poem. I wrote another one the next day. Then two the next. I kept writing poetry most days throughout high school.
In college, I dabbled in other writing genres–fiction, creative nonfiction, magazine writing, investigative journalism, newspaper articles, and essays. But, then I took a poetry class my last semester, and I remembered what kind of writer I am.
I am a poet.
When life seems hard, my best moments of clarity happen in brief imagery and succinct, choice words. I have written short stories, creative nonfiction, devotionals, and a novel. But, when I need to evaluate a situation or a feeling or an image for what life is, I write a poem.
I’ll admit there’s not much money in poetry. But, for me, that’s not the point. The point is to reassure my inner ten-year-old want-to-be-writer that when life seems hard, it’s time to add some subtle rhyme to my own off-beat rhythm and discover the bigger-picture reason for it all.