“I have wisdom for writing and reading.”
– Nikki Solano, Grade 4 Journal Entry (January 20th, 1993)
I was more in tune with myself at the age of nine than I have been throughout most of my adulthood. As a kid, I could recognize my talent and validate it effortlessly, void of presumption, judgment, and criticism. I could see what I had in me without noticing what I lacked or what anyone else thought. I had the ability to realize purely and without bias. The water in my fountain of youth babbled and danced joyously. It was fresh and clear. In its stillness, I saw only myself.
I’d like to say that I have been a writer both focused on and dedicated to my craft since I claimed my talent in grade four, but the truth is, I haven’t. I’ve been too preoccupied with trying to be everything else in the interim: a good student, an active volunteer, a helpful daughter, a fun auntie, a faithful wife, an eager entrepreneur, an endless explorer, and an eternal enthusiast. I always knew I had a passion for writing and reading, however. It is all I ever wanted to do with my time.
From the first day I learned to hold a pencil I dared to write. My kindergarten years were spent publishing short stories that were printed and bound together with string, bracketed by covers of wallpaper-wrapped cardboard. I wrote personalized poems to give as birthday and anniversary gifts to family members, and I often canvassed my neighborhood in an attempt to convince someone—anyone—to donate to the cause of my written work. When I would play make-believe house with my friends, the characters I assumed were stay-at-home moms blessed with time to write novels while raising their kids. Staying in character then, it was only fitting that scheduled playtime allowed for novel-writing time too. When we pretended to own restaurants or stores, it was the creation of menus and window advertisements that peaked my imagination more than the development of any product we aimed to sell. Reading also brought joy to my life. When my grandma came to visit, I secretly hoped she would take me to the library, not the cinema. When I accompanied my mom on trips to the grocery store, I begged her to buy me comic books, not candy, at the checkout line. I was rarely seen without a book in my hand, as one to read from or write in was all I needed. Words were the best toys ever created, I believed. Reading and writing were playgrounds I couldn’t wait to get my hands on, climb over, and swing from. And, quite fearlessly I played back then, I’ll add.
“I slept only for two hours because I was up printing on my computer. I am going to end printing and start wrighting. The word of the day is: exhuberant. The sentence is: Some people are so exhuberant that they can’t control themselves, even when they want to.”
– Nikki Solano, Grade 4 Journal Entry (January 20th, 1993)
Devoid of everything I know now that I didn’t know as a young child, which, as evidenced by the journal entry noted above, includes knowledge of the correct spelling of the words “writing” and “exuberant”, what I am confident I did learn at an early age is the lesson that any dream worth living must be consciously and actively pursued. I’m not sure which of the following surprises makes me feel prouder, that despite the puffs of curiosity, immaturity, and irresponsibility that loom over childhood like dark clouds, I chose such a grown-up and storm-weathering word to lead my pursuit, or the fact that as a juvenile, the word exuberant was present in my vocabulary. Either way, I applaud my younger self. As a term that seamlessly sums up the liveliness of my personality, energy, and optimism while simultaneously signifying growth, “exuberant” is a fitting tribute to the zealous overachiever I was as a child and the lifelong learner I will forever be.
I became a writer partway through my journey from curious kid to aging adult. It wasn’t when I landed a particular writing job, received a paycheck for my work, or when a fellow writer bestowed upon me the righteous title. It happened soon after I entertained Jordan Rosenfeld‘s teachings in her book: A Writer’s Guide to Persistence: How to Create a Lasting and Productive Writing Practice. If there is no greater lesson I learned from Jordan, let it be this: a person becomes a writer when he or she gives himself or herself permission to be one. I took from this that when someone’s desire to write, whether innate or learned, is irresistibly insistent on being defined as just that—a desire; a strong wish or want—then the first step in becoming a writer is to accept that it is the craft of writing that is wished for or wanted. Acceptance of this kind is a lot like falling in love. One cannot allow himself or herself to fall for another person if he or she is not willing to accept that there is an attraction worth chasing. This is why so many writers (myself included) wind up head over heels in love with the act of writing. I mean, giddily and foolishly love-struck, sometimes to the point of frustration. In my case, the union closely resembles a marriage. The moment I declared myself a writer, I committed myself to better or worse with my craft.
Despite my lifelong interest in writing and reading, the real reason I gave myself permission to be a writer (no, it wasn’t because Jordan said I could) is because I learned, over time, that my internal fulfillment depends on it. Once I realized that my moods followed the same ebb and flow as my writing, I had no other choice but to write if I wanted to take a shot at achieving the idyllic state we call happiness. Just ask my husband. On days when I can’t seem to nail down the perfect word or get my point across in a way that is both succinct and poignant, he knows that I am one temper tantrum away from being a terrible two-year-old. He understands that I have a love-hate relationship with the process; as much as I love the person it brings out in me, equally so, sometimes I hate the person it unleashes. Thankfully, my partner has grown accustomed to my maddening passion. I am reassured of this each time I am grumpy and argumentative and he points to my laptop and tells me to write. “Get it out”, he suggests. To let it out then, as a form of controlled and cathartic release, is my go-to means of achieving creative ends.
Catharsis is merely one benefit of writing, however, and not the principal reason I partake in the practice. Expression, education, enlightenment, enticement, and entertainment are additional gains that fuel my fire, but they are not the venture capital invested in my operation. The main reason why I write is to appease the fourth grader I once was and long to remain: a fearless, perceptive, and pursuant individual who, to quote one of the most powerful voices I have learned from, is “so exuberant that they can’t control themselves, even when they want to”. I write because I owe it to the lingering spirit of the nine-year-old who lives inside me. I owe her the experience, knowledge, and good judgment she foresaw in my future when she declared my wisdom, and “for writing and reading” at that. She’s my cheerleader and confidant, and I want nothing more than to make her proud. Fortunately, in order to do so, I have no one to impress but myself.
Regardless of any success that writing may award me with, at the end of each day my greatest takeaways will always be the acceptance of my desire to practice writing and the permission I give myself to pursue the act. I write not to strive toward something presently out of reach, but to concede to and celebrate what I have long harbored deep inside: a feisty and unwavering spark. On my worst day, I write to not fight it. When I’m at my best, I write to ignite it.