Remembering The Very Beginning

Where to begin a blog?

As I was putting together my website, I thought long and hard about this question.

I floundered.

Me floundering in my yard

I was no Maria.

Maria twirling on a mountain top

It’s not that I didn’t have ideas. Rather, I was experiencing an avalanche of them. (I’m not sure what’s up with the mountain theme. Maybe because I live near the Blue Ridge Mountains?)

As is often the case when I’m stuck, words managed to get me un-stuck. You guessed it — Maria from the Sound of Music (my all-time favorite musical film) set me straight.

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.

Photo via Visual Hunt

I’m a writer, so when did I first start writing? I mean: outside of school assignments, on my own, without being told to. Just because.

That sounds like an easy one to answer, right? For some writers, definitely. But not for me.

I wasn’t a kid who grew up writing many stories or poems. Not like my 9th grader who knew as a 3rd grader that she wanted to become an author and hasn’t stopped writing.

So once again, I thought. And I came up empty-handed. My once sharp memory had grown fuzzier with motherhood and age, but really? There had to be a beginning whether it was in childhood or adolescence or in college or…

That question continued to follow me around: When did I first start writing?

It felt deep-rooted — this need, this desire to put words down on paper. Where did this come from? Why did this feel natural? Why did this feel GOOD?

Then I remembered. The answer shone past the cobwebs in my mind. And the answer was both unexpected (because it was not creative in nature) and obvious (because it was an integral part of my life). It was like “Huh?” and “Duh…” and “Aha!” all at once.

One day when I was nine years old, I (alone) accompanied my mom to our local Waldbaum’s on Staten Island. Being one of four kids — the fifth hadn’t come along yet — this supermarket time was nothing short of a treat.

At one point, I visited my favorite aisle. Not the one with all the candy or ice cream. Rather, the one with all the cool stationary and pens — so neatly packaged, so full of possibility…

Then I spotted it just to my left on the bottom row: a little red diary. Gasp.

Yes, it was there in that aisle of Waldbaum’s, of all places, that I first remember feeling moved to write. It was as if I developed tunnel vision, and all sound disappeared. It was just the diary and me. Meant to be.

I was not a child who asked for much, so my mom added it to the week’s groceries. (I learned a few years ago that my mom had kept a childhood diary during and after her Japanese American internment years. No wonder she understood that wish to put down words in a sacred place.)

Every time I sat down to write in my diary, I experienced that Waldbaum’s Effect: no sights or sounds beyond my diary, pen, and voice in my head. Living in a big, hectic household with four brothers, this was my quiet, peaceful place.

It was a place I kept wanting to revisit. A memory box for my day’s activities. A safe space to express my feelings and thoughts. A means to connect with myself and to make meaning out of life.

Each day meant a blank, brand new page. And a new beginning.

Neither my mom nor I knew, back in Waldbaum’s, that my little red diary would become the first of ten consecutive diaries. Yes, I wrote nearly every day for ten years: 3,650 entries. Yowza!

Down the road, maybe I’ll take a long retreat and read those old diaries. Part of me would like to leave the past in the past. After all, what teenage angst might I find scrawled across those pages? Would I like the person I find?

Burn them? Shred them? Over the years, these thoughts have crossed my mind, but the writer in me is now glad that I didn’t. Talk about getting into the head of a child and teenager.

Though I didn’t know it back then, those diary entries gave me daily practice in telling stories and writing from the heart. They got me writing.

And that was a very good place to start.

On that note… So Long, Farewell.

Until we meet again,

Amy

P.S. What prompted you to first start writing? I’d love to hear your story! Let me know in a comment below.

Taking Risks in Writing and in Life

 

welcomegarden
Photo via visualhunt.com

Welcome to my first blog post! How exciting for me! But also…

…kind of nerve-racking. You see, I lead a pretty quiet life. And I don’t tend to seek the spotlight. Frankly, there’s a lot about being online that runs counter to my nature and upbringing.

So. Why. Blog?

Believe me, I asked myself that question repeatedly as my designer and I worked on my site. What, am I crazy? Putting myself out there? For anyone to see? The thought was/is enough to make me want to cuddle up with my cat and ditch the whole plan.

Just Wall-E and Me

I just joined Facebook last spring, my first step into the social media world. There were lots of reasons why I’d avoided it: time, privacy, trolls. In the end, even though it is a mixed bag, I’m glad to be there. Still, I pause nearly every time before I push the “Post” button.

That’s one side of the coin.

The other side is that I LOVE connecting with people. I live to find common ground. And I’ll talk to just about anyone. Ask my kids who are forced to stand there as I chat with people — familiar and new — at their schools, in stores, at the library, on the street.

I also live to write. I’ve been a diary/journal writer since I was a kid. A blog is, after all, a web log, isn’t it?

One of my childhood diaries

What’s the big deal, then? That brings me back to the other side of the coin.

The thing is I have to be real. That’s also part of my deal. By blogging in an open and honest way, I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable which in a face-to-face, back-and-forth conversation feels just fine. More than just fine! I thrive on that type of conversation where each person learns about the other and we share some good laughs.

But being online giving a monologue to who-knows-whom? Well, that just makes me feel naked. (No worries, G rated blog here.)

The nature of writing is solitary (too much so sometimes), but the business is public. Positive connection — bring it on! Constructive criticism — I’m good with that. But trolls — who needs that? Life is hard enough.

But life is also too short. So I’ve decided to implement the principle of non-attachment. You know, hit the “Publish” button and then…

I’ve got stuff to say and share that I think will resonate with some readers. And those are, after all, the readers I’m trying to reach.

If you end up being one of them, I’ll think of it this way: it’s just you and me having a nice little chat at school or in a store or at the library or on the street. Oh heck, while I’m at it, why not on a beach or a mountaintop? I envision tea or coffee. A steaming hot mug of French Roast for me. What do you prefer?

two-cups-of-espressoviavisuahunt
Photo via visualhunt.com

Yeah, I like that. Phew! Now I feel a lot better.

I’d feel even better if I could tell you exactly what the focus of my blog will be. But back to openness and honesty… I don’t know. The best I can offer is that my posts will be connected under the umbrella of things that I love: kids and kids’ books, reading and writing, inclusiveness in stories and in life.

Art by Robert Tai

Over time, I may find a more defined focus, a focus that grows organically and finds me. But it will take just that: time. Blogging over time.

If you’re good with this general map and open to seeing what happens, I’d love your company and conversation along the way! I’ll be spending more time writing manuscripts than blog posts, but you can expect to hear from me about once a month (i.e. I won’t be clogging up your inbox).

How do I know that I really want to blog and write and publish more books? Because despite internal and external obstacles, I’m going for it! As the late Randy Pausch said, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”

brickwall

Thanks for listening as I take this additional step into the online world. Many years ago, my high school English teacher, Ms. Stewart, told me, “Take more risks.” Yeah, I think Ms. Stewart would be happy about this one. In any case, I know I am!

Until we meet again,

Amy