QUOTATION: Feeling without judgment is a washy draught indeed; but judgment untempered by feeling is too bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition. ATTRIBUTION: Charlotte Brontë (1816–55), British novelist. Jane Eyre, ch. 21 (1847).
When did you know you were a writer? Or better yet, at what age did you become yourself? As a teenager I read Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre over 25 times, truthfully, likely more. I read words like seared visage. I re-read that book eagerly, with total abandon, like a Helen Keller spelling water again and again in her beloved teachers hand. I thought of Helen Burns often and looked up the Latin word on her tombstone in a Latin dictionary, resurgrum. I too felt the chill and horror of the red room, when the reality of our situation sets upon us. The thick lipped abuser, the mentally instability and the fuss of show, the comfort of books and drawing. Little did I know that my habit of eating apples and reading would transform into something larger than me.
I was not born a writer. My first job type idea, was to be a owner of a large island with suspended bridges and the wild animals would wander underneath, and we could watch them and throw treats. Someone hearing this scheme, said I might like to be a vet? I was always concerned with the problem of how to construct the suspension bridges in a way that would keep the tigers off and still allow for vast promenades. I think I was five years old during that time. Around seven years old, I remember receiving a nurses kit from Sears. With a red injection toy and three vials filled with tiniest candy beads pushed into form fitting crevices in the outside of the nurses version of a doctors bag. I never wanted be a dancer.
I could read early. I was talented at it. I could read by first grade. I remember reading a book to the class. In fact I loved this book, and would look at the photos with such abandoned pleasure. It was a book of photo book of stuffed animal Teddy Bears. The first word I wrote was after many tries, the word lamb. I ached when Stewart Little changed feet, and memorized small poems. In third grade I loved the colors pink and yellow together and spent a lot of time drawing alters with pink and yellow table coverings. The first novel I remember reading was called the "Bad Seed". Rhoda and those moon shaped toe leather savers, that left marks on the hands of the boy she killed. To be a writer never dawned on me. I liked to draw. I painted a still life oil at 10.
I always found comfort and refuge in libraries and art rooms. This continued during most of my education. I toyed with the idea of being an art teacher, and realized I tired easily of the demands of teens or children. I preferred the company of adults. My first love was American History and due to a belated development of study skills and general poor guidance and planning, fell into a Fine Arts Degree in Painting. Soon after, began working in the medical field. I spent my twenties making expressionistic portraits of people from my memory. I was never good as my friends from art school at drawing realistically. I always preferred to work from my imagination. In my thirties I went to graduate school and preferred architecture history to most other subjects. I considered law school and could have had the chance to do this and selected something else.
During Art School, my final project was a book of all things. A children's book. The title was called "The Three Existential Blind Mice". It was a secret final project as the lesser general Fine Arts Degree didn't require one. The book was about three moral and kind young men. A poet, painter and minister. Based on Herman Melville, Andy Warhol and Jimmy Carter respectively. They all lead exceptional moral lives, all go blind and end up homeless dying terrible and painful deaths in the street. While lesser moral people strutted by with the sexiest partners, telling them while they lie in the street, to buck up.
I kept journals. Never about my daily life per se. Usually when I dieted, movies I compulsively saw, dental appointments. I always became great friends with my dentist. One of these journals I titled "The Teeth Journal", describing my life through the care of my teeth. I tried to improve my ability to draw from reality, and enjoyed a local drawing group. Someone told me to start writing around this time. Described me as metallic. I met a writing mentor at 38 who very gently started me on my way. I wrote my first novel in four months. Adding to it a little. My second novel in four months also more or less, if you include the preliminary advance work longer totaling six months. In eighth grade I learned to type very fast at school. I learned to write while a nurse. I learned to write with compassion. As the writers trade is an observers guild, and I learned from the start that the best writing, is written with compassion.
My writing internship was as follows: for two years I wrote ten to twenty pages a day doing comprehensive psychiatric evaluations at a Registered Nurse in an Emergency Room in the mid nineties. This was pre-computers and I wrote my heart out. I would write endless psychiatric evaluations, always with a deep undercurrent of concern for the people that visited. I witnessed many suicides attempts sometimes five or six a shift and two people who died after coming to the ER. Heard incredible disturbing stories and would write like a madman after each visit. To this day I have had doctors compliment me on my reports, and have been told that if possible they look for one of my old evaluations to get a good picture of what was going on. It was an excellent apprenticeship for a writer although I didn't know it then. Now, most things are done via checklists, and subjective writing is cautioned because of lawsuits. In the very near future this kind of writing would be a quaint treacly relic of a bygone era. Like the book shop in 1984. Another book I obsessively read non stop for several years.
I had a friend who learned to write by being a journalist. After learning I had a certain flare for writing, I began to ask people how they came to writing and their motivation and training. This started the floodgates of seeing the authentic trained writers from Creative Writing schools. A serious and legitimate way to write. Next variety of technical people who had a creative and authoritative manner of communicating their expertise. What fascinated and still fascinates me is the writers who create out of their imaginations formed by their experience. Some kind of never ending bellows. A certain magic of creating a believable world. I remember this one man saying his teacher kissed him on the head when he had written a story and he was smitten. It almost seemed like an annointment.
So these last five years, after discovering I am a writer, I have done very little to pursue this knowledge fully. Two working draft novels, continued reading, small steps toward revising my first novel. As, I have a reluctance to move forward on other projects untill this first one is finished. Due to a bad experience in my masters of starting a second thesis and dropping the first. Delaying my finishing my masters. So, I became a writer by having an active imagination, typing or keyboarding ability, lots of practice writing and keen observational skills, what I refer to as judgment tempered by compassion. My slang to myself, is that I suffer the big antennae. My general idea is that the most interesting writers are people who temper most observations with compassion. Accepting my being a writer has been a slow process and not an annunciation.