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Are you meant to be a writer?


When I was in second grade, I wrote a play. It was very short, mind you. It was not easy to manipulate my number 2 pencil over the rough construction paper I had to use, and my attention span at age 8 was minimal. I showed it to my teacher and she let me recruit several classmates to perform it for our class. The thrill it gave me to hear them speaking my words was intoxicating!


I think that is when it happened. Writing got into my blood. I’ve been addicted ever since.


The same year, I asked for a diary for Christmas. I tore through my presents, tossing all aside until I found it. The cover was pastel pink and the pages creamy ivory. Pure magic! I wrote in it almost daily, usually in crayon. How I loved jotting down my life on those pages!


Santa brought me a diary for the next three years. I wrote in all of them but I felt less and less satisfaction. I needed something stronger to recapture that original thrill. I began writing a mystery à la Nancy Drew. I finished my first chapter and showed it to my Aunt Ronnie. About halfway through the chapter, she burst out laughing. I had put nothing comedic in my story. What did she find so funny? (Probably the secondary character who happened to be bicycling around town with her grandfather’s will in her front shirt pocket.) I grabbed my novel and stomped away, crushed.


My father was always saying, “Don’t waste your life; be a doctor.” I decided he was right. I gave up on writing.


Then, in ninth grade English, I discovered that I loved to write papers: essays, reports, and even research papers. The excitement of finding the right words! The giddy sensation of pouring out my thoughts through my fingertips! I did my best to keep my secret. Of course, I couldn’t hide it from my English teacher. She complimented my work. She gave me As. I ignored her.


Then my Physical Science teacher assigned a research paper using the scientific method. The craving to be creative was unstoppable. My paper ended up in iambic pentameter with the last word of every other sentence rhyming. I knew I would get an F. I couldn’t help myself. The joy of finding rhymes for words like “voltaic” overwhelmed me. How thrilling it felt to read aloud the songlike beat of my hypothesis!


I vowed to myself I would never do that again. I didn’t want to damage my grade point average and ruin my chances for being accepted into a good pre-med program.


I stuck to my vow until my junior year in college. I was taking a test for a history course; it was a single essay: Explain the European scramble for Africa. I could have passed this one easily, but I couldn’t stop myself from comparing Europe’s colonization of Africa to a chef scrambling eggs. The professor asked me if I was taking drugs (no). He thought I was making fun of his life’s interest. To me, I was glorifying it with metaphor and analogy.


“I have to stop this,” I told myself as I mailed story-like letters and handmade greeting cards to friends and family. Those people wrote back and said, “You should be a writer!” What did they know?


I gave up on the doctor idea and went into teaching. I met a great guy and got married. I had a baby daughter, who turned out to be profoundly autistic. She became the focus of my life. Her needs consumed my time. I had little left for anything else.


Then, one March day in 2005, that old urge came to me again. I put a pen to paper. I only had 45 minutes to myself each day and I wrote like crazy. I did this every day for months. I realized I had a novel in progress. I rushed through my chores and skipped lunch to add more time for writing to my day. I set my alarm for 4:30 in the morning, so I could write before my daughter awoke. I needed to write. I needed to be me.


Six years later, I became a published author. I couldn’t fight my yearning to write, and I’m glad. I wish I had given in sooner. I could have studied creative writing or literature in college. Maybe, rather than starting my career at age 46, I could have a ton of published books under my belt right now. So, I guess the moral of the story is, if you love to write and you are good at it, don’t waste your life trying to be anything else.


Victoria Ferrante is the mother of two children with autism and the author of Hope: A Novel. 

Learn more about Victoria and her novel at www.HopeTheNovel.com.




5 comments:

  1. Elizabeth SullivanApril 9, 2012 at 7:44 AM

    - In grade school I only ever got two "Excellent"s, and they were in spelling and creative writing (everything else was always "Satisfactory" or "Improvement needed")
    - I started writing when I was 12 and for the next 5 years or so I was writing every chance I got. For the final exam in my Gr. 9 English class was about the story that I had been writing at that time and I got an "A".
    - I dropped out of school at 16 to spend more time writing (I also was experiencing panic attacks due to "social anxiety" after having been the victim of bullying for many years) Writing was my escape and my sanctuary.
    - I had my first daughter when I was 23. She is Developmentally Delayed" and it took more than 10 years for anybody to finally figure this out (after being misdiagnosed as ADD) I had "writer's block" the whole time. It was also during this time that I went back to school - knowing I needed to find a job to help support my little girl. I fell in love with computers (esp. MS Word) and while taking the necessary 6 English credits I needed to graduate most of my teachers could tell that I loved writing.
    - It's just been in the past year that I started focusing on writing again. When I finally get enough material I want to publish it online.

    Yeah, I think I was destined to be a writer; however, we'll see what happens when I get my stories online.

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  2. You're right in what you've said on your blog..

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  3. Wonderfully inspiring story, thank you!

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  4. well, I feel great to have read this, and I don't know how to describe what i felt when i first opened this blog a few days ago. I have been there too, people will tell you to do a real thing in life, when they do not even know what is real for them, and in the worst is that sometimes even friends and family members are the ones trying to mislead you from your own dreams. Sad. So, my advise is: even though it will be hard, in some cases like this, you have to hide and write without your close relatives and friends finding out. They will dissuade you from doing so, "you will never be famous" "You are writing bull..." "Its a lie that writers make money out of their words", in my case. Do not let ignorant people to interfere in what you really love, Write as much as you can, write as much as you want.

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    Replies
    1. It's true, some times the people you want most to support you are the ones that seem to stand in your way. I think it's hard for non-writers to really understand what we do.

      I remember once being at the airport with my in-laws and a publication was using the article I had written for them in a promotion in the gift shop. They were like "hey Jo that's you".

      Even my husband had a surprised kind of reaction when he first saw my books in a book-store and he knows how much time I spend writing.

      It's a bit like we do a make-believe job until they actually see some of the results.

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