My parents are/were writers. Journalists. My dad was an old school, notebook-toting (that's an actual notebook, not a computer. Y'know, those books with lined paper inside them that you write in with a pen?), on-the-beat, in the neighborhood, interviewing people in person reporter. He got to know the people in the neighborhoods where he journeyed to write his stories. He did his research the old fashioned way, with microfilm, books, and going to the library. When he started writing for the first of many newspapers he would work at, they still had copy boys and presses. The reporters, mostly men, would sit at their desks, banging away on typewriters, smoking like chimneys, and answering their phones grumpily, as if they couldn't bear to be interrupted.
When computers and email came along, it was far too clean and quiet for him. He missed the days of alcohol-and-tobacco strained voices yelling out "Copy!" at which a boy would come running, pick up a mimeographed or carbon-copied bunch of pages, and race them to the editor's desk.
My mom tunes out everything when she's writing. And I mean EVERYTHING. And don't think for a second that my brother and I didn't take full advantage of that when we were kids. Caught inhaling an entire pint of ice cream with chocolate sauce? "But Ma said we could!" And she did!
She just hadn't realized, at the time, what she'd agreed to.
I imagine our voices, when she was working, sounded like the adults in the all the "Charlie Brown" TV specials.
We'd also test her: "Ma, I'm going out."
"I'm gonna meet up with Annie and Jane * and we're gonna go rob the savings bank."
"That's nice, have fun sweetie."
"Then I thought we'd go liberate a few nuclear warheads and start WWIII."
And so on.
My brother and I were basically wise-asses.
Our parents tried to get us to follow in their footsteps. And for a while, when I was quite young, I figured I would. Because, at the age of 9, one's career path tends to be a bit vague.
Then, the following year, the Acting Bug bit, and that was it.
But my parents never really gave up their quest, at least as far as I was concerned. When my brother went into law enforcement, I think they realized that the only kinds of writing he'd be doing were police reports and traffic tickets. But there was hope for me; after all, I was in a creative field, and writing was something I could "fall back on."
Yeah. Most parents of aspiring actors tell them to take accounting classes. Mine told me to write.
Because it's such a SECURE profession!
My rebellion was to do the opposite and avoid writing whenever possible.
When my kids came along, my parents told me to write down their exploits, which would make great fodder. I refused. Having been the subject of such fodder for many years when my dad wrote a column (and worse, when both parents got together and wrote a book about their marriage and kids, the Title of Which Shall Not Be Spoken in my presence), I was not about to turn around and do that to my offspring.
But lately, writing has been a bit of a saving grace for me. I'm sitting and writing a few days a week. Not anything that anyone will ever see. Not yet. I'm just enjoying the process. And, it turns out, it's good for my sanity. Sitting in a cafe with a cup of coffee and vomiting words out into a notebook (yes, the kind with lined paper inside that you write in with a pen) is fun and therapeutic. I guess that this apple didn't fall so far from the tree, after all. Not that I ignore my kids or chase down politicians, mind you. I'll never have a byline, a sandwich named after me at a local deli, or be painted into a mural at a local pub.
But I AM writing. Who knows, maybe someday I'll actually show someone something I've written. Actually, I did: I dug out a very short play I'd written about 12 years ago and submitted it to a local theater for consideration in their 10-minute plays festival. It didn't get chosen. I wasn't really expecting it to. And last year I helped write a play with a group of students, which they performed for their families and friends.
Many of my own friends have become writers. One wrote an entire season of "In Treatment" for HBO, as well as contributing to "A Gifted Man." Another developed, writes, directs, and produces "Last Resort." And yet another has a play that will open on Broadway soon. I'm not trying to be in the same league with them.
At least, not yet.
(Cue evil laughter!)
But I was just reading an article about writers who also meditate, and how the practice informs their writing. The columnist spoke to 5 or 6 mystery authors, and one of them said that it's important to enjoy the writing process, and not just think about the finished product.
Which is what I'm doing now. It doesn't have to be perfect. Heck, it doesn't even have to be GOOD.
It just needs to be written down.
In a notebook.
With a pen.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.