Webster defines genesis as "the act of producing, or giving birth to anything; the process or mode of originating." An online dictionary describes it as "the coming into being of something."
It seems that ninety-nine percent of writers exclaim, "I always knew I was going to be a writer!" Unlike them, I didn't. I have no cute books about bunnies that I penned and filled with crayon illustrations when I was five. I found scribing my name and the alphabet were quite enough to cope with at that point. In grade school I enjoyed the reading of words rather than the writing of them. I have always envied those who knew with certainty the path their lives would take: the ballerina with the long legs and swan neck, the football player with the powerhouse body, the mathematician that could calculate the square root of six digit numbers in her head, the actor who organized and performed in neighborhood plays when he was eight, the writer who wrote when she was two. (There were signs that nursing was in my blood. Injured insect-patients always found the best of care in my doll house hospital.)
So, how did I "come into being" as a writer? Good question, and one for which I didn't have a definitive answer. I was perplexed that I seemed to be missing some of the same early markers as others in the profession. I wanted to confirm the calling and would have to delve further.
"Perhaps I'm not a writer at all," I thought, "but a fraud, a charlatan who's fooling no one." (Some writers apparently suffer this affliction of doubt. Great! Why is that my one commonality?) So I set out on a mental journey of discovery in order to solve the mystery once and for all, and come to terms with what I would find.
I have noted that some wordsmiths are second generation authors. Was there any evidence that genetics could have played a role for me? I'm not entirely sure on that score. My mother was a high school reporter who wrote a column for the bi-monthly diocesan paper. As for dad, back in the 40's he attended a high school where it was customary for each student to have a nickname by which he was known. As you can see, beneath my father's yearbook photo is the moniker "Reader." Dad does like stories and easily slips into the verbal storyteller role at family gatherings. Now there's a trait I definitely inherited.
What Adults (Might) Want to Know
I am told that as soon as I could speak I was forever asking, "Why?" When armed with the answer, I was catapulted by the desire to share my newfound knowledge. I toddled around saying, "Know sumpin'?" to anyone who would listen. Evidently, I wanted to be a sponge, soak it all up and then wring it all out. During the pre-teen years, my bedcovers were frequently illuminated at night. A flashlight was my tool to get just one more hour with my textbooks. I never felt I was "done" reading or fully prepared for the next day of school. In high school it was said that I should have been on the debate team. It seemed I had a gift for convincing people to come around to my way of thinking. A vocational guidance test indicated that I should consider being a "sister teacher" but certain vows held no appeal for me. In college, my gift for academic writing flourished. Those papers were barely a challenge.
Discovery was the challenge, the thing I could get lost in, be consumed by and, in reflection, perhaps a sign of the researcher that every writer must be. I'm happiest when I'm learning something new. I'm in love with epiphanies, those amazingly exhilarating light bulb moments. Ideas, for me, are like a standing line of dominoes set into motion with a single tap; one strikes the next, strikes the next, and so on down the procession. I am an extreme insomniac with a relentless mind like a locomotive that never wants to shut down. So, perhaps these were all subtle collective signs, albeit not neon or necessarily screaming, "Writer!"
I have spent 10 years as a medical secretary, eleven years as an ICU nurse, seventeen years as a photographic artist, and thirty-one years as the co-owner of a professional photography studio. Someone once asked, "Doesn't that make you about 100 years old?" Obviously, the jobs overlapped. At one point in time I was juggling three of them simultaneously. However, all the while, story ideas just kept coming, so I joined a writer's group to gain objective input. After submitting a few manuscripts, a critique group partner with eyebrows arched and a smidge of astonishment proclaimed, "You're a teacher!" And so I saw it was true. What is a teacher at their core? Someone compelled to share. What is a writer at their core? Someone compelled to share. I see now that the two professions are just different roads to the same town. I, of course, took the long and winding road to that town. For a long time I was oblivious to the fact that the town was even there, beyond the horizon. So, if you've ever found yourself on that same protracted and dusty road, take heart, you're not alone.
For me, life has always been a thousand-piece puzzle. (By the way, keeping in true form, I was compelled to do research after typing the previous sentence. Did you know that it requires upwards of 700 tons of pressure in order to cut the pieces?) Oops. Sorry, back to the metaphor. So, a puzzle is a work of art that needs pressure to be born. Hmmm. Do I sense a correlation there? Puzzles also require construction, a time-consuming task. There is a strategy involved in the process. Firstly, separate the identifiable outside edges from the inner pieces. That's laying the groundwork, letting it take shape as you move toward the center and watch it "come into being." Contrasting designs and colors make the task easier and slowly shed light on which piece to work with next. Most of us have no shortage of contrast in our lives, to be sure. But there are always the pesky portions where everything seems to blend together, the picture is vague, and the degree of difficulty rises exponentially. Honestly, if it were a snap, would any of us even bother with it? In the end, every irregular form will fall perfectly into chorus with the others, if only we have the patience to see where it fits. All will interlock. As I age I realize that my puzzle happens to be a very complicated one but, with each story I write, I feel myself moving closer to the center, inching toward the exclamation of "Eureka, I've done it!"
So that is the journey of my genesis thus far, I guess you could say that I am slowly giving birth to myself. Many of us do. We have to work diligently at assembling the pieces in order to reveal the big picture. For those of you with whom this idea resonates, you know that life can be a painstaking unveiling. It can take time and pressure. Laboring to give birth is not meant to be easy. The difficulty and pain help you understand the enormity of the accomplishment performed and the immense importance of the outcome. I have come to realize that my stories reflect what I know, what I have lived, and what I am moved to share. True, the genesis has been lengthy and continues, but the old adage applies -- anything worth having, is worth waiting for.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and allowing me to share yet another light bulb moment with one more person. So, if you'll excuse me, I'll get back to that puzzle now.
"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you
it's going to be a butterfly."
~ R. Buckminster Fuller