Monday, October 26, 2009

Learning to Write: Part 1

My friend Jane over at Leaf-Stitch-Word tagged me in this meme she created. She asks us to look for three essential markers, practices, or maybe habits. She asks, "What can you tell me about your twisted paths to becoming a writer?" I'm going to take this in three posts. Thanks, Jane!

Part One: What You Didn't Know You Knew

When I was five my family moved from a smallish house on James Drive to a big house on Murray Hills Drive. The new house had a huge living room with a fireplace and a wide bay window. What it didn't have was furniture--any furniture. For three years the living room served as my gymnasium/playroom/performance space until my parents had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves built into the fireplace wall, and two bulky love seats installed facing each other in the center of the pale blue carpet. What happened after that was this: books started arriving.

On the top shelf were a set of thin black photography books about minerals and gemstones, from Time Life Books, with dazzling colors and textures, and insane letter-happy names like Gypsum and Topaz. Malachite, Hematite and Tourmaline. On the opposite side of the hearth were thick hardback volumes of fiction whose spines I remember to this day. "Sophie's Choice," by William Styron is a pale corn-yellow color, with text in a lighter and darker shade of the same brown. Kaye Gibbons's books are smaller, with lighter, less dramatic fonts. The books written by Reynolds Price were higher, a few shifted over to the shelf beneath, like words pushed off the line by a long sentence--a fact that nagged at my OCD, even at that young age.

Here's the thing, though: I never read any of these books. Except for turning the pages of the gemstone books, I just spent a lot of time hanging around them. They were like friends who I knew nothing about, and at the same time, they were objects that I knew held some significance to my mother. That my parent's house was, and still very much is, swallowed up by books of all sorts, means that from a very early age I knew, by unconscious absorption or firsthand instruction, that books were: 1) possible. 2) meaningful. 3) cherishable.

Simply, as the books arrived, I started to notice them. This is not to say that if your mother had books and you noticed them, then you will become a writer. But, if deep down inside, you are a writer looking for a map of possibilities...

1 comment:

your mom said...

And now yours have been and will continue to be placed among my cherished books, alongside those I turn to for understanding, comfort, inspiration, and pure pleasure. Yippeee!