Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from January. We asked, “Have you ever felt torn between the demands of work and domesticity and your personal need to create and write? What mountain did you have to climb to pass from a state of domestic certitude to the sometimes frightening, frequently challenging state of being a writer?”
As promised, here is the second writing prompt essay we chose for January’s Selected Short.
Paula Kiger wrote:
“Can you look at this letter?”
“Would you mind taking a look at my article?”
Many of my work responsibilities leave me with an aftertaste of insecurity. Writing-related tasks are minuscule parts of my job; but, I don’t feel hesitant when I start them. When I submit the completed product, I am confident that my work has helped an enrollee comprehend our complicated program, or perhaps has enticed a legislator to protect our vulnerable budget.
I can see the problems in a piece of text the way some people can play piano by ear. I just intuitively know how to excise unnecessary verbiage and rearrange words to flow better.
I can also write. People say, “even your routine emails have a certain touch.”
The mountain between the writing in my head and writing for readers is not composed of rock but of something more difficult to penetrate: confidence. I want those writing-related moments of confidence at work to become a bigger part of my life. When that happens, my confidence (and therefore, my happiness) will ascend to new heights.
Last night, my fourth grader had to respond to a passage about how to traverse mountains. The passage talked about how the earliest American settlers didn’t even dare try to cross the Rockies. Eventually, settlers crossed on foot and horseback. Railroads and highways followed.
My journey toward identifying myself more as a writer parallels the passage my son had to read. I have made some inroads into writing outside of the comfort zone tasks I do at work. I have accepted pennies per word to do some paid writing.
My book club has had several authors speak to us. Each one said some variation on write every day, no matter what. One woman was a dental hygienist who arrived at work early every day and wrote two pages (no matter what).
The rocky terrain I must conquer is getting from my regular life to no matter what. I was torn when writing for textbroker.com because I was writing the articles on Sunday afternoons while my children and their friends played in the house. I couldn’t give either my full attention. If I wait and write when everyone is asleep, I wake up crabby and poorly rested, unable to parent fully or be a one hundred percent employee. All the while the title of my favorite career planning book, “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow” taunts me like the idea of gold in California must have called to the people on the east side of the Rockies.
This is my first step—clearing the brush to cut the trail, laying the tracks, and paving the mountain passes. What awaits? Maybe the juggling of regular life versus writer life is exactly the same on the other side. In the case of the Rockies, the settlers eventually reached the Pacific Ocean, whose boundaries are so expansive there seems to be no end.
Paula Kiger can be reached at opuswsk(at)aol(dot)com.