Last week I wrote about my father, about the way he, disappointed in his own existence, discouraged my brother’s and my every aspiration, thinking he could save us from disappointment that way. I told how our dad’s discouragement actually gave us both the determination we needed to succeed in our very different careers.
I asked my readers, what gives you the courage, the drive, the against-all-odds determination to seek out a working writer’s fraught existence? And what keeps you struggling with it, day after sometimes discouraging day?
Donna Gephart answered this way:
Growing up, I watched my single mom work hard every day at a job she didn’t seem to enjoy. When it was time to choose a career path, my mom suggested I go into computers (which was a hot, emerging field at the time) or teaching (which would afford summers off to write). She told me I’d never be able to support myself as a writer.
I was also told by someone I admired that I’d “NEVER, EVER be a writer.”
Now, these are good stories to share with students at school visits, because that resilient spirit you mentioned led me to a most fulfilling career as a children’s book author.
Every day, my own children see me incredibly excited to “go to” work. (I work from home.) And once, when they were little, hubby asked our oldest son what they should give mommy for Mother’s Day. His reply? “Let’s give her more work. She loves her work.”
Donna and I both succeeded despite discouragement, but just think what a gift she has given her own children—not to mention all the children she reaches with her books and school visits—through the example of her delight in her own work.
Clearly, whatever the origins of our need to write, it’s our delight in the work that makes it possible. What better gift can we give our children than the knowledge that we spend our lives in work we love?
Sandra Warren had an experience similar to Donna’s and mine. This is what she said:
Wow! You could have been writing about my younger years; different scenarios but similar message just the same. The fortunate thing for you and your brother and I’d like to think me, was that we all were determined to be different and find success and happiness in what we love to do. We’re all proof that positive things can come out of adversity.
How right you are, Sandra, and I suspect our experience isn’t that rare. I remember years ago hearing an interview with a well-published writer—I no longer remember her name—who said she had a creative writing teacher at one of the prestigious Eastern colleges who told her that she would never succeed as a writer. In the interview this successful writer also told about meeting another of this teacher’s students, also a career writer, who had been told the same thing! (Makes you wonder how many publishing writers there are out there who have been thrust into their careers through the same bad advice!)
This morning I heard an interview with the Irish writer, Edna O’Brien, on Public Radio. She talked about her mother having discouraged her writing. In fact, she said, her mother equated the written word with sin. What better place to begin than with a little sin?
What a blessing contrariness can be.
Next week I’ll present some other kinds of responses I received to my question.