My mother was a lover of words. She read and she read and she read. Every day a stream of words came into her thoughts from the time she was a little girl right up until the day she died at age 89. Somewhere, somehow, some way writers she had never met connected with her through the written word. Long after her eyesight had faded, her wrinkled, arthritic fingers continued to turn the pages, and the bright old eyes, curious and childlike, continued to probe the text. Not a day went by that she didn’t meet up with words.
My mother never told me words were special, but I could see their power in the deceptively simple sentences of the letters she wrote, and I could see their bounty in the three-volume thesaurus she gave me. While other mothers taught their daughters how to cook and sew, my mother taught me about the power of the written word.
When she died, she left numerous incomplete journals among a disarray of papers. They spoke of hope, disappointment and frustration. They surprised me, saddened me and shamed me for my failure to perceive her inner turmoil. Once again she taught me about the power of the written word.
And now writing is my medium. Words are my tools. I cuddle up with them, confess to them, unload on them. I am their vessel. They are my valve. I love to play with them and make them do my bidding. And I exalt in those rare moments when I can make them sing.
As a writer, I want to put the reader in the skin of conflicted people, people begging for someone to listen up. I want to show the reader where that character is coming from, show the reader that character’s heart and soul so the reader will say, “Ah, now I understand.”
That’s why I get up at 3:00 a.m. Monday through Friday: to squeeze in a little writing time before my day job. And it’s why I head over to the cafeteria on the 10th floor of City Hall at noon, get a cup of hot tea, find a table next to a window that overlooks downtown Phoenix and rendezvous with words.
They tell me that writers like me are a dime a dozen, and that out of 50,000 books published every year, only 20 become best sellers. They say I’ll be lucky enough to get an agent, let alone get published, that I need connections, that the chances of breaking in are slim to none, and why am I wasting my time scribbling my life away?
Yet despite all odds, I continue to write. Because I believe in my satchel full of words. Because I’ve got something to say. Because what I write matters. Words are magical. Words are eternal. Nothing is more powerful, more binding one soul to the next than the written word. This I believe. And somehow, some day, somewhere, I too will connect with some little girl or some old woman who can’t get enough of the written word.
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