A few months ago, I watched a 2007 Ted Talk by Ken Robinson called Do Schools Kill Creativity, which is fantastic, and you should all go see it if you haven’t already. And in that way that often happens when people with intense focus surf the Internet, I started watching everything with Ken Robinson in the title.
I quickly became a Ken Robinson fan. So, I picked up one of his books, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. It’s a book about discovering your passion, that sacred ember that burns deep inside each of us and compels us, inspires us, and fuels–or I should say CAN FUEL–our lives. If we let it. Robinson calls it the Element. The book is filled with stories of others who have found their element and followed the path it illuminated. People like Mick Fleetwood, Richard Feynman, Paul McCartney, Aaron Sorkin, and Helen Pilcher,
I know I’m damn lucky. I found my element at a young age. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 11 years old. Since lazy summers in the dining room of our little house in Pensacola, Florida, when I’d surround myself with pens and paper, and our family’s 5 dogs, and work on news scripts for my radio station, W-D-O-G. When the stories were perfected, I’d read them on a dead channel on my dad’s CB radio. I did this for hours on end. I had tapped into something almost spiritual, and I knew it.
Throughout school, I excelled in my English classes and penned short stories in my spare time. Horrible short stories with twisted endings. The annals of Crab Island, where children were poisoned by hermit crabs and washed out to sea. And fantastic fictional interviews with the rock stars whose songs blasted from my radio. In one, Jon Bon Jovi admitted to having a hopeless crush on a slender, long-haired freckled girl living in the panhandle. Who could it be? This journalist would never tell. I worked on the school newspaper in high school, The Tiger’s Tale. Eventually, I decided to pursue a career in writing, and my pragmatic self figured the best way to do that was to get Pell grants and student loans, and earn a degree in Journalism!
But there’s a difference between getting educated to write. And writing. I could go on about the hungry years after graduating with my B.S. from the University of Florida. Of being poor. Of my grad school days, paid 100% by student loans. About how William Blake might have saved my soul. About long, wine-soaked evenings with dear friends, opining on the poetics of dead writers. I could tell you about my dead-end career choices. My beautiful and amazing and distracting children. My dreams of someday earning a doctorate in literature. I have lots of stories about why I’m not a writer. I could tell you those. But all of this is just noise.
I’m a writer. Who isn’t writing.
W-D-O-G is still out there, looking for a clever wordsmith who has experience writing solid leads and tight, inverted-pyramid-style copy. And the dead CBS channel is MINE. It’s mothermirth.com, and I own it. I might still be floating words out into dead space, like blowing bubbles in a Florida rainstorm, but in the immortal words of Joni Mitchell (but in the golden, sublime voice of David Crosby), I got to get back to the land that sets my soul free.
This post is dedicated to Amy Lea and Allen Holt, for backing me up.