Thursday, October 11, 2007

Like Mother, Like Daughter

My mother is a writer.

All of my life she has called herself a writer. I must admit that during most of my growing up she only wrote in her journal. Before she began her blog I actually didn’t see much concrete evidence of her writer status. However, she has always been a writer and I never doubted that.

I didn’t have a title until I went to acting school. After a few years I felt comfortable calling myself an actor. Well, actress – I don’t like the whole politically correct thing of everyone being actors now. I had my own title, I had my own life, things were good.

Then about a year ago I took a playwriting class.

God forbid I ever call myself a writer. I have always written, but it was more of a hobby. An interest, nothing more. I kept a diary from the age of 6, on and off, wrote several skits with my brothers, wrote a children’s novel in my teens that I never did anything with and I have at least half a dozen unfinished stories in my head and in my filing cabinet, but I was not a writer. It was an interest, an acceptable interest for an actress. Supplemental income and all that rot. So I took the class.

Within two months I began to wrestle with my titles. My teacher was calling me a writer. My classmates were calling me a writer. The other instructors in the school were calling me a writer.

I refused to accept it. Even though I was writing and nothing had ever felt so perfectly natural to me, I rejected the title with all the strength and stubborn willpower in my body.

I struggled and procrastinated like I had never done before in my entire life. The things I would do instead of writing! I suddenly found a passion for my annotated bibliography, the most pointless course I take here; I don’t think my room has ever been so clean and orderly. I vacuumed. I hate vacuuming. I washed other people’s dishes. Anything so that I could avoid writing my play.

I put an astounding amount of energy into avoiding writing. My ideas would come, my spirit would whisper to my muse, and I would evade eye contact. “If I can’t see you, then you aren’t reeeallll,” right?

I can only live in denial for so long, but it took a lot of wrestling before I broke down and called myself a writer. It did break me, even though I was alone that first time.

I go for walks when my thoughts get too jumbled up to the cemetery up on the hill, an old cemetery full of old graves of long forgotten people. I walked around the dead, watching my feet swish through the grass, scaring the grasshoppers into their rain-pattering flight. I was railing against God. Against my play. My idea, the only one I’d been given, was too big. Too dangerous. Too painful. It wasn’t fair, and I told God so.

I crumpled to the ground and with tears falling down my face I looked up to the sky and said, “I’m a fucking writer. Okay? I’m a writer. And I hate it.”

I uttered the phrase with a mouth full of resentment and bitterness. It wasn’t fair, I was an actress, I was not my mother, I refused to become my mother, and I knew this was the first step down a long and impossible backslidden slope.

Months later I finally said the words to someone else. I think my passion for writing equals my passion to act. It was strange to hear those words coming out of my mouth. The strangest part was that my resentment had disappeared. It was suddenly okay for me to admit that I could, perhaps, be a writer.

I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure out why I had such a strong negative reaction to being called a writer. I’m no closer to an answer, and no closer to knowing why it became okay. But I can call myself a writer now.

It scares me, but there is a peace in the fear along with an excitement as I explore this newly forgiven aspect of myself. The world seems like an open book, my oyster chock-full of pearls just waiting for me to come along and pick them up.

Like mother. Like daughter.

I’m okay with that now.


Heidi Renee said...

I have carried, through about a dozen moves, boxes and boxes of my dead mother's writing. It's horrible. She always tried to write what she thought people wanted to read, instead of her pain, her angst and her struggles. She would have loved blogging. Seeing that "publish" button would have given her great joy. How I wish she had lived long enough to see this stage of self-publishing and envelopes stretching and walls being knocked down.

I am reaping the benefits she only dreamed of having access to. A computer large enough to hold "one novel" - unheard of back in the 80's before she died. Let alone having 3 in one house that could hold rafts and rafts of writing. More space than I could fill writing for the rest of my lifetime.

I remember the rejection letters. The big thick manila envelopes that used to make her cry. That is the place that blocks me from my own writing. The desperate fear of rejection. Of spending so much time pouring yourself into a project only to have it shelved by others. Judged inadequate. I saw the pain it caused in her heart and soul and it creates deep wells of fear within me.

We inherited a soul from our mothers. An eye that sees details other miss. A mind that follows thoughts to their logical and illogical conclusions. A sense of wonder that sees things from an angle other would only find painful. This is truly an inheritance to be grateful for.

And the deep love I have for your mother makes me smile even more as I type because in your words and writing you are truly her daughter. Your style and the way you turn a phrase remind me so much of her. Please take this as a deepest of compliments as she means the world to me.

Write on dear sister, write on! I look forward to one day holding that binding in my hand, or seeing that performance on a stage!

Pru said...

Thank you Heidi.

Thank you.

When that binding is in my hand, I will be sure to send a copy to you.