Many writers seem to know early in life that they want, even need, to be a writer. Not so with me. When I was a girl, I had no thought of being a writer, no inkling or desire. Writing stories in school was no fun. I could never write anything under the pressure of a deadline as the clock tick-ticked on the teacher's desk. My ideas and words, if there were any good ones, froze long before they reached the lead tip of my yellow HB 2 pencil with eraser nibbled off.
Yet, in retrospect, writing was being woven into the very warp and woof of my life. Perhaps Jo March did leave her mark on my imagination -- I certainly could see myself sitting up in an attic, a funny hat on my head, scribbling away in a minuscule diary with lock and key. What I could not see was that those plays I used to write as a girl with my sister, putting on elaborate performances for Mom and our neighbours, was writing. Or, that my grade nine English short story into which I poured all my girlish longing for romance (a story for which my teacher commended me) -- that was writing too.
Those timid attempts to capture visions of beauty in poetry (I think William Wordsworth and his famous daffodils had something to do with that, not to mention L.M. Montgomery and her beauty-loving Anne.) Well, they were just scribblings of a yearning heart -- that wasn't writing, was it?
Playing with words threaded their way not only through my personal hobbies (calligraphy, journaling, and letter writing) and volunteer jobs (writing skits and games for Sunday school), but even my job that turned out to be a 20+ year career, involved drafting thousands of letters and messages for publications for three Alberta Premiers.
Yet for all that, I did not -- I could not bring myself to say with any confidence that I was a writer. My husband used to introduce me to people he knew that I was a writer, but I was stutteringly embarrassed, especially if anyone asked what I wrote. Lord, have mercy! For I still operated from an earlier, deeply rooted belief that coloured every word I wrote: That real writers wrote books and were published; nothing else (holy hush) was real writing.
Something on the inside kept stirring. Around 2002, I registered for my first-ever InScribe event in Calgary. Kathleen Gibson was the keynote speaker, and her words that weekend dropped into my heart and began to bubble. I came away with visions of possibility, as I pondered them in my heart. Maybe I could call myself a writer.
So, we created business cards (except I was too afraid to hand them out) and when we bought our first home computer, I started writing in earnest and I read everything I could get my hands on about the craft of writing. My desire to write blossomed. And more importantly, like water dripping on a stone, that ratty old belief slowly eroded away. I was writing and words were touching hearts. Published or not -- I was a writer.
Dreaming about writing to inspire and encourage women, a beautiful opportunity opened that I could never have imagined -- developing and writing a monthly newsletter to inspire women in business. I accepted the job and loved it. From that first 4-page newsletter it eventually had an estimated monthly readership of 500. It was exciting.
In 2008, I took a leap into cyberspace when I created two blogs. Since then, I’ve written well over a thousand posts, connecting with hundreds of women and creating a kindred online community. Other writing steps included writing articles and a blogging column in FellowScript, book reviews for the local paper, two blogging workshops, and an e-course for new bloggers; I even won a contest or two.
In this journey, the steps have been small, sometimes slow, but looking back I see that Someone has been faithfully directing my steps, steadily bringing her toward her destiny of writing 'words from home'. Do I know I'm a writer now? Yes, now I know.
Brenda Leyland writes from her desk overlooking the backyard garden. When she's not watching the birds or blogging at It's A Beautiful Life, she scribbles away on the memoir in progress, hoping Inspiration will lend a hand.