Friday, March 29, 2013

On writing.

I’m a doctor in my daily life.  Not a real one anymore, or not what you think of when you think of what the average doctor does, anyway.  I sit behind a desk, working in an office for a pharmaceutical company.  I do a lot of stuff that really isn’t all that interesting unless you do what I do.  But it’s a great job and although it isn’t what I thought I would end up doing went I went to medical school, it’s turned out to be the perfect job for me.

I was a biology major and chemistry minor in college and even though I went to a small liberal arts school with quite a few academic requirements to substantiate that Bachelor of Arts degree I earned, I am hard pressed to think of a single English class I took or paper I wrote.  Other than lab reports for the many science courses I took, I don’t think I wrote a damn word in 4 years of college. 

That can’t really be the case, can it?  I took philosophy and French and what they called Freshman Colloquy at the time, a seminar type thing about social justice.  I took a class called Nuclear Arms for crying out loud (which is a funny, funny story for another time), we must have had to write a paper. I must have written something.  But if I did, I have really no recollection.

At some point over the years I started a journal. I wrote about what I did that day, what I wanted to do in the future, or what I’d done on the rare day I didn’t write.  It became a real outlet for me.  When I was having a hard time, I wrote about it.  When something great happened, I wrote about that too.  I’ve been doing it now for something like 15 years.  But I never really thought of it as writing.

In the meantime, as an avid reader always looking for something to read, I discovered memoirs.  I read everybody’s account of everything.  I read all of them.  From those about single women and dating, to stories of mental illness and addiction to travel memoirs, you name it, I’ve read it.  And like an awful lot of the people reading them I thought, Hey I could do this!  I have stories to tell!  But I’m no idiot, I realize it's not quite that easy.

A couple years ago just looking for something to do other than work and the unfortunate eating and drinking hobby I’d picked up, I stumbled across an adult education writing workshop at a university in the city.  And I thought Huh, maybe I should see if I could learn to write?  So I did.  And I fell madly love with the whole thing.  It was like I discovered a part of my life I never knew I was missing.  I realized pretty quickly that  I didn’t know how to write and I definitely didn’t know how to talk about writing.  But that didn’t matter.  I loved it all anyway.  My class was full of doctors and lawyers and engineers and social workers and movie theater ticket takers, all of whom also wanted to write.  And some could, some really could.  I loved that some wrote fiction, some were playwrights, some wrote memoir.  Their day jobs, like mine, generally had nothing to do with writing, or anything creative at all.  But in their free time they wrote. 

And one of the best things about class had nothing to do with class itself.  My teacher hosted a pot luck dinner at his home every other week and invited all his students, as well as people he knew from the plays he produced and the books he wrote.  He invited his friends from his artsy neighborhood in the city.  It was an open invitation to basically anyone and everyone he knew.  And most of them showed up.  And little old me who didn’t think I had a creative bone in my body fell even more in love with the whole thing.  I felt like I found my people.  I talked with people who actually made a living writing, or acting, or painting.  And I talked with plenty of people who would never make ends meet that way, but still did it anyway.  It was eye opening.  And it was standing in my teacher’s rowhouse kitchen when I realized, even if I could never do anything with it, I needed to keep writing.

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