October is National Book Month and a time to focus on reading and the joy of books. It’s also a time to honor and bless our country’s favorite books and writers. As a writer myself, I’m thrilled to have this month to celebrate, and I hope that readers nationwide will make reading a priority.
I believe that I was born with the talent to write, but it has been life’s circumstance which have inspired me to pursue the craft. In fact, if you ask most published writers, you will learn that since a very young age they have been lovers of the written word. Many have enjoyed reading, but many have also enjoyed writing. In Margaret Atwood’s book, A Writer on Writing, she deftly discusses the writer’s childhood:
“The childhoods of writers are thought to have something to do with their vocation, but when you look at these childhoods, they are in fact very different. What they often contain, however, are books and solitude and my own childhood was on track. There were no films or theaters in the North, and the radio didn’t work very well. But there were always books. I learned to read early, was an avid reader and read everything I could get my hands on – no one ever told me I couldn’t read a book. My mother liked quietness in children, and a child who is reading is very quiet.”
Writing has been my passion since the age of six. My mother provided me, through her complicated and eccentric life, with endless stories. She spent a lot of time engaging in self-care, whether it was horseback riding or doing yoga. As an only child, I didn’t feel like the center of her life, but often times I felt as if I was in the way.
She did not allow me the opportunity to express myself verbally, which is probably why I turned to writing in my journal. In fact, she might have freed the writer from within me. If life was similar to my favorite childhood television series Leave it to Beaver – which depicted the perfectly normal quintessential American family of the 1960s – then I would have much less to write about.
I believe many of the rituals of our childhoods provide even more fodder for our stories as writers. The more bizarre our childhoods, the more things there are to write about. One thing I most remember about my childhood is my mother loving her horse.
For as long as I can remember, my mother’s favorite hobby has been horseback riding. She kept her horse at a stable on Long Island, New York. On Sundays she woke up early, tossed a carrot and an apple into the back seat of her car, and drove one hour to the stable.
If she was lucky, her horse would be hacked up with his saddle already on his back. His reins would be pulled to the side of his head and attached to two hooks on either side of the stable corridor. He would impatiently wait for my mother’s arrival. When he heard her voice, he’d cock his head to the side.
After grabbing the apple from her hand, core and all, she’d tell him ‘good job’ just like she told the parakeet that she wanted instead of me. She would disconnect his reins, walk him outside, put her foot into the stirrup, swing her leg around, and jump up onto his back. She would then direct him into the neighboring forest.
Now in my sixth decade, my life revolves around writing. Each and every day I write something, whether it’s in my journal, an article, or a poem. The older I get, the more I have a need to write. This is mainly because I have more experiences to write about.
When I sit down to write, the higher forces speak to me. In return, I speak back to them. These muses – as I sometimes call them – are the food for my soul and the inspiration behind my writing.
In each of my writing projects there has been at least one muse standing behind the writing. Sometimes I feel they are sitting on my shoulder, other times in another room or even in another house, sometimes a friend that inspires me or an old lover, but they are always present.
Often times this muse is a real person, other times it is an imaginary spirit. I have had many muses during my writing life, all helping to ignite and keep my writing flame burning. For me, writing has been the best healer. I had a mentor once who told me that when it hurts, I should write harder, and I do this all of the time.
I am also grateful for our regular family ritual growing up. Twice a month my mother drove me to the local public library in Fresh Meadows, New York. Her love of books might have had something to do with her undergraduate degree in English from New York University.
When we entered through the glass doors, the librarian would smile and say hello as I flashed my own personal library card as she stood behind the checkout counter. Some days we stayed for only 10 minutes because we had to get somewhere, and other days we sat for hours until the sun set.
Whatever the case, I always left the library with a stack of books, sometimes piled so high in my arms that they would reach all the way up to my chin.
I don’t remember my mother ever spending money on a book, unless it was one that she really liked and wanted to keep permanently on her living room bookshelf. She never bought paperbacks, only hardcover. There was an independent book seller in the shopping center near us who rented out books, so when she could not find the bestsellers in the library, she would rent the books from that store.
My love for books and writing has stayed with me my entire life and in terms of blessings, I believe this to be a great one. To learn more about all my nonfiction and poetry, please check out my website.
What is your earliest reading/writing memory? What is it connected to? Have you tried writing in different formats? What do books and libraries mean to you? What are your most favorite books and writers?