In the third grade, I became infatuated with reading and, upon discovering The Little House in the Big Woods series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, with writing. People could write about their own lives—what a revelation. But my life seemed uninteresting, so I wrote fiction instead. When I say write, I mean sporadic scribblings, for years.

My well-read 1973 copy.

Academically, I thrived in school even as I daydreamed, bit my nails, and doodled on papers. The structure, the clarity of expectations, and the talented teachers all contributed to my success. And my career path—I would be a teacher because I felt I could be a good one. A writing career was impractical, I told myself, not the least because I had a distractible mind and a restless body.

I started college with the goal of being an elementary school teacher, and then switched to English teacher, but I did not have the necessary enthusiasm for either. I wanted to write. My last two of the eight years it took me to get my BA, I switched to a university with a writing program and focused on fiction.

After graduation, thanks to my husband, I got my dream job—stay-at-home mom. Kids, and plenty of time, in theory, to write. Yet I couldn’t figure out how to claim emotional space or carve out time for my writing. Not only did I struggle to write but daily life became increasingly difficult to navigate.

A diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at the age of thirty-six brought relief and understanding. Books, my dependable solace, became a source of information for my mental disorder. Medication helped. But still I struggled, mired in my mind, never able to create the life or the prose I desired.

In 2015, I started writing memoir. I wrote to understand myself. I continue to write because I want to turn my struggles into art, and I want that art to bring solace to other people.

It’s hard to ask for help. Help to figure out your crazy brain. Help to get through the day. Help to be a better writer. In 2018, at fifty-three, I was determined to focus on my writing but I couldn’t do it alone. With the support of my husband, I returned to the institution that first fostered my love of reading and writing: school. I applied to and was accepted in the Rainier Writing Workshop, a three-year low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.

My first year just ended and RWW provided the external structure, accountability, and encouragement I needed to write more and write better. My community of writer-friends has grown in person and online. I am thankful every day for the level of support I have for my writing life.

My life was never uninteresting—no life is. I just didn’t have the skills or the ability to sit still long enough to write about it. I was also unwilling to delve deep, be honest, be vulnerable. Now I know that is the only way to write.

 

Mountain Lake