When did you know you were a writer?

Reading the SF Chron this morning, I came across a crystalline description of the moment it comes together – the moment that you know that you want to be a writer; when the world is somewhat of a formless blur around you, and you find yourself groping inarticulately, but you know that if you could just get a grip, just find handholds somewhere, you can spin that sphere in the direction you need it to go.

This gem is from Alicia Parlette, and I urge you to read the entire piece because it’s important and focused writing, and it will no doubt impress you like it did me, and make you briefly jealous and aware of a shapeless longing to push more deeply into your own undiscovered boundaries of your art. I hope to have my thoughts, much less my writing, someday distilled in this way — but Parlette’s depth and skill are so much more immediate than simply wanting to hone her craft. Parlette wields her metaphorical pen like a scalpel because she is 23, and has learned she has cancer.

When the doctor came in, I started focusing on the room. The mauve curtain. The computer in the corner. The crunchiness of my gown. He sat there calculating how rare my cancer was (“Let’s see … uh … huh … 1 percent of … right … and … well … 1 in 50 million, maybe?”) and the limited options I had (“We usually don’t use chemotherapy because it doesn’t work, but you’ll have to talk to someone else about that”), and I felt myself weaving in and out of panic. One second I felt like I was going to pass out; the next, I focused on his gray-blue tie. The details seemed increasingly important.

I was set up to see other doctors and with a plan to meet again, but no treatment. No concrete options. I noticed myself stepping back and thinking of it as a play, not my life. This was too horrific to be my life.

As I sat there, I could feel myself detach. And in that moment I thought, “What a great story this will make.”
That’s when I knew I was a writer. When things were more frightening than I could ever imagine and my tiny little existence was spinning and careening out of control, my first reaction was to think about recasting it as a drama, as a struggle, as a way to share my little existence that didn’t seem so little anymore.

I am still in awe of the way life’s puzzles fall into place. I think this is because, right now, God is giving me a bigger look at how the jigsaw is mapped out. Not much bigger, but big enough for me to see that even tragedies are linked with blessings, and that among my many blessings is the chance to write my story. Right at the time when my world is upended – and right at a time when I’m aching to be more creative, to find an outlet, to finally write – God practically drops this opportunity in my lap.

If I get through this, this story will help me remember the important moments along the way, the details, the dizzying emotions. And, in the worst of all circumstances, if I go through this life-changing ordeal and my body just wears out and I die, I will die a writer. The one thing I’ve always wanted to be.

Read the whole piece. You’ll find that Parlette is young, maybe idealistic, but a beginning writer who looks steadily at her world, and who writes it true. Then go forth to your world and look at it with new eyes. You’ll find your handholds. Give that world a whirl, and watch it spin.

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