Why I Do What I Do

The first thing I wrote publicly was my first name when I was six years old–on the freshly varnished wood trim around my bedroom window. Using my favorite pen that Aunt SeDell gave me for Valentine’s Day, I found that the turquoise ink was far too garish in broad daylight, so I opted for carving my name in the soft finish with the cap of my pen instead. Once my first draft was completed–all five letters of my name connected in a makeshift cursive style–I tweaked and refined my masterpiece night after night until the letters were etched deep enough in the wood to be noticeable to the naked eye. The night my creation was completed, I slept the blissful sleep of a contented writer…which was shattered first thing the next morning.

“Why did you do that?” Dad asked me, stunned, when Mom’s outraged shrieks brought him running to my bedroom once she discovered my handiwork. I shrugged. Not once did I question why I was writing–okay, carving–my name in the woodwork. Nor did I imagine that my creation would cause such an uproar. All I knew was that I needed to write (carve). And so I did.

And that’s why I still write. Because I need to write. Because I need to follow the instinct to pay tribute to  my experience, to the person I was at the time, to the person I became because of the experience, and to the people who helped shape or shared the experience. And maybe through my stories I will encourage somebody else to share their stories as well. For when it comes down to it, we are more alike than we are different.

Dad made a big to-do about how he was going to have to sand and revarnish the wood. But for some reason, he never got around to it. Forty-three years later, my name is still carved in the wood trim around the window of my old bedroom, testimony to that little girl who just had to write for all the world to see despite the consequences.