Sunday, January 6, 2013

Outing the Writer in Me

I am proud of my three older daughters.  I love each one of them (though two are currently estranged from me), and there are many reasons for which I am proud of them. Their strength. Their resiliency. Their independent-mindedness. Their musical talents. Their beauty.

For now, however, I want to focus on only one trait that they all share, of which I am extremely proud: they are all gifted writers.  If there is a "writer's gene," I'd like to think they inherited it from me.

The other day, I wrote a long letter to one of my daughters from whom I estranged, but ultimately decided not to send it. I was telling her some things about me that I'm sure she doesn't know.  I've decided to incorporate in this post some of what I wrote to her.   

There was a time in my life when there was nothing I wanted more than to be a writer.  When I was in third grade, I wrote my first “novel” (a “book” as I called it), collaborating with a classmate who drew pictures to go with it.  It was a mystery novel, a product of my fascination with the Hardy Boys series. Unfortunately, that manuscript is long since gone; it would have been fun to read it.

Me in Third Grade

When I was in 5th grade, I was placed in a “gifted program” at our school where those chosen met separately on a regular basis and pursued their interests through various projects.  One of my projects was a series of short stories. When I was in 8th grade, I worked on and wrote for our school newspaper.

In my sophomore year in high school, I took “Advanced English,” which was geared toward students who showed a particular affinity for and ability with writing and literature.  In that year, I wrote several pieces, including a couple of longer short stories that I still have.  My teacher inspired me and encouraged me to pursue my dream of being a writer.  I looked into colleges, and selected one in Illinois that was known for its creative writing program.

But my sophomore year was also the year in which my parents’ divorce was finalized and my dad moved his business to another state, over 400 miles away. I desperately craved my father’s approval and love.  So when I shared my plans with him and he said that a career in writing wasn’t “practical,” I believed him.  I think there was also another reason, which I describe below.

Though I took literature and journalism classes my junior and senior years, was editor of both the school newspaper and the yearbook, wrote regular columns for the newspaper and won several essay contests (two at the state level), I abandoned any plans to pursue writing and never took a single English class in college. 

Me working on layout of my high school newspaper
with my Journalism teacher

Perhaps not surprisingly, however, once I graduated from law school, I gravitated rather quickly to an area of the law that required a lot of good writing, i.e., preparing public disclosure documents for public companies. I also wrote several books about the history of my family, about our adopted children and their birth families and about my older biological children.

Upon coming out over two years ago, I started blogging.  One of my earliest posts was entitled “Outing the Writer in Me.” In this post, I wrote about another reason that probably played into my decision to abandon an “artsy” career. I also wrote of the joy that I felt being reunited with this old love:
“I have never blogged (about anything) before, but I have to say that I am finding the experience of creating this blog not only tremendously liberating, but also stimulating.  It is liberating in that I am describing events and giving voice to thoughts and emotions that, for the most part, I have never shared with anyone else, and that have been repressed and a source of secret shame and self-loathing for most of my life. I have finally given myself permission to express these thoughts, to relive these emotions, to describe these experiences, and I find this process not only liberating, but also affirming.  
"It is also stimulating, in that I am writing about these things for the first time in my life. I feel that to write something is to affirm and give form, shape and texture to a memory, a feeling, a thought, then hold these up to the light and analyze and perhaps even admire them.  This process stimulates the creative juices in me and makes me feel like I am getting in touch with an integral part of who I am – not just my gay identity, but also that part of me that is a writer.  
"But this passion for writing died within me as I advanced in my teenage years.  Like other aspects of what I assume to be my true self, this interest in self-expression was too closely intertwined with that other aspect of my real self that I wanted desperately to deny and repress – my gay self.  In repressing my homosexuality, I feel I also repressed other parts of my true self that might have affirmed or risked exposure of my sexual identity.  
"I guess this is what I have tried to express in other posts:  This journey for me right now is not just about my homosexuality.  It is also – particularly because of the added trauma of child abuse – an effort to recover my lost self that I believe retreated deep inside me when I was a small child in order to protect itself from abuse, then was further repressed during what is often a great awakening in a boy’s life:  puberty and its aftermath.   
"So now, I am outing the writer in me.  He may not be a very good writer, but he is a part of me – the authentic, real me, and I welcome his coming.”
I don't know if I'll ever publish anything.  I think it is far more likely that I will someday see and read books written by one or more of my daughters.  But I am going to hazard a guess and say that the reason that they write is the same reason I write, which was expressed on a sign I saw the other day in an art supply store, with which I will close.

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