I write

I well remember my very first writing assignment. I was to write three hundred words about my summer vacation. Three hundred words seemed like an overwhelming amount. I knew that I would have to start working on it right away when I got home from school as I was certain it would take me all afternoon and into the evening to complete. Goodbye freedom. Hello sixth grade.

Those three hundred word writing assignments because a weekly occurrence. We were assigned a variety of topics, and a few days later the teacher would read the essays she considered to be the best. I had this same English teacher for four years, and I only remember my work being read out loud three times. Neither was I one of the students who got special attention and got sent to the young author’s conference a year or two later. Midway through sixth grade I discovered the saint who would inspire my Confirmation name a year and a half later. She was Maria Goretti, a poor Italian girl who had to take over care of her younger siblings upon the death of her father at age nine. Her mother had to work in the fields all day just to support them. I was nine years old the first time my parents went out together one evening without hiring a babysitter. I was the one who put my three younger siblings to bed and then went to bed myself a little later, well before my parents returned to a quiet house. Fortunately unlike St. Maria I only had to take care of my younger siblings for an occasional date night.

St. Maria Goretti was not quite twelve when she was murdered by the family’s eighteen year old housemate whose original intent was to rape her. Rather than give into an activity that she knew to be sinful she fought him. He stabbed her many times and she died two days later in the hospital but not before telling the priest who gave her the last rites that she forgave her attacker and would pray for his conversion, a prayer which was answered many years later.

I was a lonely twelve-year-old. I had few friends at school, and I sometimes got ridiculed for my interest in spiritual things. “You’re such a holy holy,” my class mates would tell me when I didn’t want to participate in their more worldly activities. St. Maria was someone who I thought would understand me. I started a journal as a series of letters addressed to her. I would write about the day to day activities of my life or the matters which troubled me, and I would conclude each letter by asking her to pray for me.

This was the beginning of a lifetime of expressing my thoughts and feelings through writing. Somewhere in the crawl space of my current house I have a box or two filled with notebooks going all the way back to those initial letters to St. Maria Goretti. As I entered my teen years I began to write short stories. Most of my stories never got finished but a few did.

But I never thought of myself as a writer. No one in my life encouraged me to write or ever affirmed me as a good writer. My parents didn’t seem to think it was a big deal, and I only shared a few of my stories with them, preferring to keep most of them a secret like my journal. Although I generally got good grades on my school writing assignments none of my teachers indicated to me that my writing stood out in any way. It always seemed to me that my other classmates were better writers than I was. While I entertained ambitions to become an author I never once thought they were realistic.

I took my first and only college level English writing class my junior year. The class focused on essays, which was and continues to be my preferred writing genre. The professor, Dr. Joseph Somoza, was a well respected published poet. I was studying plant breeding and genetics, and he’d had previous experience with science majors who could not write. My first essay for his class blew that prejudice out of the water for him. I was a science major who knew how to write. My writing thrived in this class. I got to practice writing different styles of essays, including persuasive and informative ones.

My favorite essay for the class was one called An Inside Look, in which I shared highlights of my two-and-a-half-year stint as a pro-life activist while in high school. Dr. Somoza expressed surprise that I had not opted to save the abortion topic for my persuasive essay, and I told him that I’d done it this way on purpose. I didn’t want to turn in yet another persuasive essay on one side or the other of the issue. Instead, I wanted to show my readers what it was like on the inside of the activism world–what it was like to have such strong convictions–and I wanted to do it in a way that allowed people who disagreed with me on the issue to still feel like they could relate to my story. According to some of the pro-choice people in my editing group I’d succeeded. My persuasive essay, by the way, was on why I believed forensic DNA evidence should be allowed in court. We happened to be studying that in my genetics laboratory class, so I already had the research materials. I felt like I had some hope of actually persuading people since many would not already have such a strong opinion on the matter.

One semester of writing in Dr. Somoza’s class told me everything I needed to know about myself as a writer. I was one of the really good ones. Nearly seven years of keeping a journal along with the various writing assignments and research papers had honed my writing skills. I also need to credit my sixth through ninth grade English teacher who forced her students to diagram sentences (and yes we all complained loudly) and who read good literature out loud to us every school day.

My first paid writing gig was for my college newspaper. At first I wrote random news stories, but before long I picked up a beat covering political student organizations. I was paid fifty cents a column inch, which usually worked out to around five dollars a story. The most valuable part of this job for me was the opportunity to sit down and talk to people I wouldn’t ordinarily have anything in common with. I interviewed animal rights activists, gay rights proponents, various professors and regents at the university, and even campus pastors from Christian organizations. I started to get good practice in simply listening to people without feeling the need to agree with them or persuade them to my way of thinking.

Years after I graduated I started freelance writing, and my primary clients were a couple of local newspapers. I wrote soft feel good pieces about various charitable projects some of the big business owners in my community were doing. I learned a lot about the construction industry as most of the people I interviewed were general contractors. This coincided with the housing boom. By then I was married and had a couple small children. I found I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to talk to other adults about topics they were passionate about which had nothing to do with parenting. It was a great outlet for me as a stay at home mom. Unlike with my first writing assignment in sixth grade, I found it to be a challenge to limit my articles to only five hundred words.

Today I write a lot of essays for the Devtome and press releases and similar projects for my other clients. The Devtome allows me to write about any topic I please. Like many writers I started off by publishing some of my old high school and college papers and content from websites I used to maintain. Now my favorite general topics are insights about the spiritual life and discoveries I make in the world of cryptocurrencies. My other clients give me specific topics, styles and word counts, so I get to maintain the discipline of writing with more constraints along with the freedom to write about what happens to be on my mind.

My paid writing clients, especially the Devtome, have helped turn my family’s financial situation completely around from juggling bills and utility shutoff notices and nearly losing our home, to paying all our bills ahead of time and chipping away at our debt. That is reason enough for me to keep writing. However, I would write regardless, and I did for many years with little to no monetary reward. Writing is simply what I do.


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