Tuesday, March 17, 2009

For as long as I can remember...

I would have been in Grade 4.  It was a nice day, and my Daddy was working on a car while I babbled away about whatever story I was writing in my head.  It was about a horse.  What else would I be writing about?

My teacher had asked me if I could write about something other than ponies.  He seemed to think I could branch out a little.  What he didn't realize is that I had challenged myself to write a pony or a horse into every single English class assignment.  I was really doing great with my goal.  I told him I planned to write about horses.  All the time.  It's what I do.  I don't remember if he had an answer for that.

On the last day of summer, I'd been out in the pasture field with my two little pony mares.  I patted their necks and ran my fingers through their thick black manes.  I explained to them that I had to go to school, and wouldn't be able to spend the whole day with them.  But I could still come out and see them after school.  It wouldn't be so bad.  

Writing about them all day eased the pain of parting, just a little bit.  It made me feel like I was still with them, while I sat there in the white classroom.

So I told my Daddy every little detail of this epic story I was planning on writing.  The horse in it was probably wild, since I'd been reading lots of wild  horse epics at that time.  He listened patiently, although now I wouldn't be surprised if he'd only heard half of what I said.  Eventually my babbling slowed (maybe I had to hand him a tool or something) and I asked, "Daddy, do you think anybody would read a book written by a nine year old?"

I don't think he even looked up when he answered.  "Maybe by a thirty nine year old." 

Looking back now, as a thirty eight year old, I'm kind of thinking his answer was everything at once: crushing, motivating, realistic, and disappointing.  At the time, I was silently defiant.  I made up my mind that somebody, somewhere, don't care when, is going to read my book!!!  And I am not going to wait until and thirty nine!!!

But on the way here, like a lot of girls, I got sidetracked.  I fell into that sucking hole of self esteem that so many teenage girls fall into.  I didn't believe in myself.  I still wanted to write... I secretly wrote my poems and kept journals, invented stories, but only held onto that goal as something far away.  Other people achieved the title of "writer," not me.  Not sad lil me.

It never left.

After the schooling and wedding and birth, the kid with the braids in her hair and pony dirt on her hands was still there.  She never grew up.  When the baby slept, I started typing a long story about a pregnant woman and her toddler and her husband and a whole field full of other people's horses.  Years later, after another baby, an unrecognized mental breakdown, a move to a house of our own, more stories bubbled up.  I finished a few of them.  

So I'm 38 now, and next year it'll be thirty years that I got my first dose of writer's reality, from a man who likely doesn't even remember that conversation.  He's outside right now, teaching my son how to demolish a wall or hitch up a trailer or something.  He also told me a couple of summers ago that I don't need to write trash, that anything full of cussing isn't worth writing because "people who talk like that are illiterate, they don't read!"  

I might have a long way to go yet before an actual book exists with my name on it.  I hope not too much longer.  I hope it's the one I'm sending out into the world now.  I think it's pretty good...

...even though it has no horses in it.

Although it does have some dogs.  And Axl Rose, sort of.

I doubt my folks will like it, but that's okay.  They don't have to.  Someday I'll write something they'll read, that they can be proud of.

Besides, I'm still that scrawny 9 year old with the hair in two braids and the pony-dirty hands.  That epic horse story is in there somewhere.


Nicole said...

I'm with you, Heidi. The passing of time is like a constant reminder that, as writers, we're not yet where we want to be. And it's hard to see the magical scepter of publication land on others' heads

I believe in us, though. We'll get there!


Heidi said...

I think most of the conversations with my parents that are most vivid to me are ones they don't even remember having.

I'm glad it didn't crush you completely. And sometime, the timing just isn't right. There are lots of things to life besides writing. Good things. And experiencing them often makes us better writers, with better stories.

Maybe this whole conversation is prophetic. This year will be your year. :)

pseudosu said...

My parents would HATE my book, and it has tons of swearing in it.
Keep doing your thing, sooner or later someone will pay attention.

Heidi the Hick said...

Agreed, agreed, and agreed!

I'm glad he said that, all those years ago. I think parents often want to protect their kids, and it comes out sort of defeating, accidentally.

But as I've mentioned... I'M STUBBORN.

Lynn Sinclair said...

I'm so glad you never gave up the dream, Heidi. Our tiny tea time would never be the same without you.

Shelli said...

you may not have a book but you have a lot more than you ever expected at 9 :)

JKB said...

I'm with Heidi. Most of my soul crushing talks they don't remember.

But I remember them. And I fight against them. I'm glad you didn't give up, either.


And I'm waiting to read the epic horse story.

Biddie said...

Well, maybe next year will be your year then...
I can recall a couple of talks with my Dad that he (I'm sure) had no idea crushed my spirit...Thank goodness I am stubborn too.

Heidi the Hick said...

But they both like the articles I write for the church newsletter. That counts, eh?

I know - I'll write a whole book full of church newsletter stories!

OH WAIT. I already have that... it's called THIS BLOG!

dilling said...

i told my dad once i was gonna write a number 1 best-seller. he said "maybe number 2." that kinda ruined it for me...but hey, maybe i will find my voice again one day.