The Nature of Writing

21 Jun

My grandniece Kay, an early reader.

I was about seven or eight years old when I wrote a booklet, including handmade drawings on each page. I don’t remember what it was about, or that my parents thought it was anything extra special, but I know that I felt good about this little book (enough to remember it all these years later).

During my school years, I didn’t care about reading. I didn’t even find a book I couldn’t put down until I was in my twenties. However, in high school there was a time when I enjoyed putting a sentence together, by putting business letters together in English class. My teacher noticed it anyway. Another teacher encouraged me to be the state secretary of Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) in my junior and senior year.

I thought that was my basic writing background until my mother passed away. My sisters and I went through boxes of things we’d saved over the years, long forgotten in my parents home. Mostly, what I had saved was letters. Letters from friends I’d met at camp in my teen years, from relatives, or from those who’d moved away. I remember writing them, enjoying the writing as much as receiving something back. It was very interesting for me to see that I’d loved putting words on the page then, just as I do now.

After that first book I couldn’t put down, I started reading fiction and have never really stopped. Later, at thirty-six, I somehow thought I could write a book. I guess I thought I’d read enough to know. 

Recently, my father passed away at 91 years old. Even though expected at this age, it’s not always an easy process dealing with the emotions of losing a loved one. My sister said we needed to write an obituary and I said I’d write it. I was happy to do it; I have lots of experience putting words on a page after all these years.  

I calmed considerably as I put the words on the page. I moved to that place in my mind where I think about who, what, when and the where in writing. I was in my element writing his story, moving sentences around to fit and complete the process. That period of time was my calmest during that week.

Who knows why some start reading and writing early in life with clear definition of what they are doing, while others go through life as I did finally moving from A to Z before even realizing that I should be writing. I used to resent the fact that I didn’t start writing earlier, but I’m okay with it now. I imagine it is the way of things, and only the Big Guy Upstairs knows why.

When did you know that writing was in your blood?


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20 responses to “The Nature of Writing

  1. Phil Deane

    June 21, 2012 at 3:08 AM

    In November last year.

    I wrote as a child, and up until I was around 16, I had my head in a book, or writing my own stories, Then the internet came along and I forgot about it.

    University came and went, children came (but haven’t went yet)

    I was made redundant, and after the first month of being bored, I heard about NanowriMo, and thought since I had little else to do, I would give it a bash.

    I sat down, and opened my head, and 50,000 words flooded out over the space of the month. I then left it for a month or two, before I went back and read it. It actually really impressed me.

    I have not looked back since. I don’t get bored any more. And can’t think of anything else I would rather do.

    • maryvine

      June 21, 2012 at 9:23 AM

      I used to think I could sit down and write like you did for NonowriMo, but tried it and found, just like you, that much of it was useful. It’s so interesting how we all took different paths to become a writer. Thanks for commenting, Phil.

  2. johannaharness

    June 21, 2012 at 5:31 AM

    This really resonates with me, Mary. My heart goes out to you with the passing of your dad. I know the feeling of writing the obituary–that feeling that there is work to be done that I can do.

    I’ve always written and assumed I’d someday write novels, but it wasn’t until my dad died that I faced my own mortality and realized I was running out of time.

    • maryvine

      June 21, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      Thanks, Johanna. It is interesting to me that you always knew you’d write a novel but wasn’t quite ready until later.

  3. Janis

    June 21, 2012 at 6:37 AM

    Wow, I wrote both Dad and Mom’s obituaries. Seems like a trend! What I noticed was that I tried to put down their personalities and not just what schools they attended or clubs they belonged to. I didn’t want it to be about a laundry list of things.

    I still remember how my aunt (Dad’s sister) got mad at me because I wrote he was “irascible.” Let me share with you, I spoke the truth. It didn’t mean I didn’t love and respect him. He was also loyal and loving. My aunt was of the belief you only said glowing resume-type things in an obituary. I know his friends when reading it probably smiled and thought, “That was Mac.”

    • maryvine

      June 21, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      After Dad died, I was surprised at some of the comments from his younger friends who’d worked with him. We all knew he had a great sense of humor, yet they saw a different side of him than the serious fellow we saw when he came home from work each day. I’m sure your Dad’s friends appreciated the “irascible” comment in the obit. Thanks for sharing, Janis.

  4. Lynn Mapp

    June 21, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    Well, here comes another obit writer. I don’t know that writing was my calling. I remember sitting in a college English course sharing our writing assignment. The teacher begin reading my work aloud and I watched a transformation occur. She straightened and looked around the room and may have even muttered, “This is good.”

    • maryvine

      June 21, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      Thanks for sharing about how you first really knew you could write, Lynn. I guess we are the natural person to ask for obit writing since we are the writers.

  5. Susan Russo Anderson

    June 21, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    Thank you so much, Mary, for this. I really liked reading it, especially the feeling of calmness you experienced while writing your father’s obituary and I enjoyed the comments, too.

    It’s that special feeling, a quiet happiness when writing that, as I look back I’ve always had—even in grade school. But it took me a long time to realize that writing was a good place to be, like being home again after a long absence.

    I wrote a lot in college, then left it when I started raising a family. But it took my husband’s sudden death six years ago to yank me back into serious writing. In the first years after his death, it was the only time I felt good.

    Janis and Johanna also mentioned writing after the death of a loved one, so I guess I’m not alone. In my case, Larry’s death channeled my writing into novels. To tell you the truth, I don’t know why: the words just moved in that direction.

    • maryvine

      June 21, 2012 at 9:45 AM

      Wow, that is a great example of God’s timing, isn’t it Susan? I’m so glad you are writing now.

  6. Meredith Conner

    June 21, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    I’m sorry to hear about your Dad, Mary.
    I’ve always read, always written in some form. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I simply knew this was what I wanted to do.

    • maryvine

      June 21, 2012 at 9:37 AM

      This is a revelation to me-that there are others that didn’t start getting serious about writing to publication until later. Thanks, Meredith, for the kind words about my Dad.

  7. Liz Fredericks

    June 21, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    Mary, condolences on your father’s passing. The peace you note in the writing process is fundamental to my decision (and sounds like the decision of others) to start writing fiction. I’d toyed with stories off and on over the years, but always felt I was ‘smarter’ to work on something ‘serious’ because, after all, ‘you can’t make a living writing stories’. And like you, I’ve been a little frustrated that I didn’t start sooner, but am sure it’s in God’s plan. My position now? I may not make a living writing stories, but writing stories gave me a life. Regardless of publication, that peace/thrill/challenge keeps me sane.

    • maryvine

      June 21, 2012 at 9:40 AM

      Once your life settles down, Liz, I bet you’ll be trying to make a few bucks writing seriously again. I know that’s what happened to me years back.

  8. jean

    June 21, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Mary, you are such a wonderful writer. Everything comes in God’s good time. I’m so glad your time is now 🙂

    • maryvine

      June 21, 2012 at 9:42 AM

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Jean!

  9. Peggy Staggs

    June 21, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    I’m sorry to hear about your Dad.
    I come from a family of story tellers. As a kid I begged people to tell me stories. When I got older I read all the stories I could get my hands on. Somehow it seemed natural that I write stories.

    • maryvine

      June 21, 2012 at 3:09 PM

      That’s wonderful that you came from a family of story tellers! Thanks, Peggy.

  10. marsharwest

    June 22, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    I’m sorry for your loss, Mary. I do think our perception of life changes for us after our parents die. The realization crashes in on us: we’re next. If we want to accomplish anything else in our life, we need to get to it.
    I’m obsessed with the idea that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to. It’s comforting to read of the woman who just sold her first book at 91! (Hopefully, I won’t have to wait that long. )

    I’ve written since middle school, but sporadically, been a reader since a young child when my parents read to me every night before I went to sleep. How blessed am I for those times. I only took up again just before I retired.

    I have a love/hate relationship with my writing. For me, it’s very important to get published–in some manner. It seems I’m a slow learner. 🙂 Oh, I didn’t write my mother’s obit, beasue she basically had it all laid out–she took care of me to the end. But I did write out what I wanted our minister to say. Couldn’t read it myself. Admire those who are able, but not me. Thanks for the post, Mary.

  11. maryvine

    June 22, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    Marsha-I don’t know if I feel like time is running out, but my husband and I did get settled for old age ahead. You know, where to live cheaply then set up our house. Now that I’m settled maybe I’ll start worrying about the time passing 🙂
    Keep writing-the best is yet to be!!


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