Mrs. MacLean’s room is the place where the song began.
While the colors on the wall escape memory as does knowing if our little six- and seven-year old bodies sat in rows or at tables, the sheer freedom of a hand learning to form letters, gracefully moving across a smooth sea of dotted lines is as vividly clear as an azure sky.
Singular t’s and p’s, along with other friends of the 26 Club became words strung together into full thoughts. Then, at the favorite place in all the world, the creative writing center, sentences became first ever official stories.
Stories of cottonball clouds and Clifford the Big Red Dog, of recycling and summer popsicles– sweet innocent tales which always seemed to require more paper and the occasional resting of the hand. A happy little southpaw lived and loved to write. Finally, a home for all of the words in my young mind.
Words continued — and continue — to run through veins like salmon in a stream. Running, running, nestled next to hundreds, even thousands, of others. Sometimes so many that the words jumble up and articulation is lost like a granny without her bifocals. So-called writer’s block has not plagued as much as has excess and verbosity.
Words have filled childhood tree-climbing days, teenage journals, and letters and postcards to loved ones while living abroad. They’ve woven through an English major, a collection of notecards, and manuscript drafts.
Yet somehow I pause at the refrain.
Grains of coffee, when brewed correctly, work their wonder along with hot water for a delicious cup of joe. But when there are too many or the filter is off, the process goes awry and you get a clog of a brown mess and mess of a mama. I struggle with the brown messes where the words can’t get their act together.
In these moments, doubts and insecurities waltz in like unwelcomed tides on a child’s sandcastle and shout,
How dare you sing this chorus, how can you call yourself a writer?”
So what does one do when one’s mind operates in metaphor and savors words both spoken and written by others, stores up these linguistic treasures for just the right moment?
What do you do when something such as writing is like breathing?
You can continue to feed the naysayers including the loudest of all, the conscience, or you can welcome the chorus that returns like a familar friend outstretching a hand.
You live to make or teach art, you are an artist.
You love to sing or play music; call yourself singer or musician.
You enjoy words and crafting stories; refer to yourself as writer.
I stand up for the refrain that began in with the glorious moments of watching the crooked smile of Mrs. MacLean as she stapled together my words — stories — in a first grade classroom; I can finally sing: I was, I am, will be, a writer.
What about you? Do enjoy singing, creating art, or writing but struggle to call yourself a singer, a writer, an artist?
Will you join the chorus?