I took a lot of art classes in high school and my teachers taught me to see art in everything. During the fall months, especially, I carried a sketchbook with me everywhere, sketching trees as they shed their leaves and everyday objects I found around me, like pop cans and manholes. Sometimes I added a personal touch like my younger brother’s head peeking out from beneath the manhole. To this day, when I look at the sky or the leaves on the trees, I see them from an artist’s perspective; the vivid colors and the formation of the clouds. But I no longer have the ability to draw or paint those things because I stopped doing it. I lost what ability I did have for lack of practice. The kids don’t understand this.
“Look, Mom!” they will exclaim while going through my old art papers. “You used to be able to draw! What happened?”
What happened is: I stopped drawing. I stopped painting. And now, I no longer am sure I still have that talent. Artists need to perfect their talent.
The same goes for writing. I have been writing ever since I was a little girl scribbling into Indian Chief tablets. I made up stories in my head on the way to school and jotted them down when I got home. I started a newspaper for my junior high school and belonged on the high school newspaper. I loved essay tests and assigned reports in high school and college. I started writing essays and articles when I was pregnant with Rachel, 20+ years ago, and got hooked when I saw that first $50 check, which I of course framed. I wrote for a newspaper in 1992 and 1993, and even had my own column. But each time I had another baby, there was that fallow period while I was so immersed in nursing and diapers, that I wrote very little beyond letters to my longtime friend and penpal, Mary. Our letters were, and are, a lifeline of sorts, one that I expect to continue long into our golden years.
My writing waned initially after each infant and when I began writing again I felt rusty at first. But the more time I spent at writing, the easier it was to set aside time for writing, and the better writer I became. Now the little girl who carried an Indian Chief tablet and the young teen who carried a sketchbook is an almost-50-year-old woman with a notebook in her purse who sees everything, and I mean everything through the eyes of a writer. A day without writing leaves me out of sorts and off-kilter. I get up at 6:00 a.m. every day and write. Some days I sneak in some writing in the afternoon while the kids watch t.v., but my mornings are the most prolific. And the more I write, the more I want to write. In the car with my husband on the way to a booksale on Friday, I started the rough draft of an article, and while I waited for the sale to start, I wrote a letter to my friend Mary. When I injured my head on a table during the sale and staggered to a chair to stop the bleeding and regain my composure, I couldn’t help but think how it would make a good article. I’ve been doing this for years. During knee surgery 12 years ago, I pondered how I could relate my experience in an article. People who know me well would recognize that far away look in my eyes that means I am thinking about an essay while they are talking, or pondering a life’s experience at that moment, more than just living it. When my daughter stepped on a bat and had to undergo rabies shots, yes, I considered it as fodder for a future essay. And, as terrible as I know it sounds, when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, the writer in me knew I would someday be writing about it, no matter what happened.
And, I did. While I sat by my husband during his chemotherapy sessions, I started writing. And before long I knew I had written the very book I had searched for upon his diagnosis. Not only that, but I had revealed a very personal love story in the process. All the writing I had done before that paled in comparison. I realized that a lot of my writing had been from the head, but that this book, was truly from the heart.
While I had hoped to have this book published before my 50th birthday, I am now searching for a quality publisher who will share my vision with me, that of creating a book that readers will not put down until they read the whole thing, and when they do finish it, they will reflect on their own marriage. Whatever their relationship is like right now, whatever trouble they might be having with their marriage, they can know one thing; It doesn’t have to be like that. It can be better.
And, for those families starting their own journey through cancer, my book can give them the hope that good things could come out of their experience, that someone can go through something horrific and be a grateful survivor, a much loved survivor.