I don’t remember exactly when I started writing. I only know that I cannot remember not needing to write. Maybe it was because I was a shy kid who felt like she didn’t belong anywhere exactly. Books and reading were a great escape. My mother’s aunt nurtured that connection to books and I loved getting swept away in an epic story. Then one day she bought me a package of stationary and a beautiful pen. “Write,” she said. So I began, clumsily at first, filling the pages with bad poetry about adolescent angst. What was amazing about the experience was that once I began, I couldn’t stop. If reading was a source of comfort and happiness, then writing—putting my own words on the page—felt like mainlining a drug.
The outside world had given me plenty of reasons to doubt myself. I struggled with a fledgling awareness of my differentness, but honestly having no idea what that meant exactly. I only knew I liked girls. Although words had become my comfortable companions, I had no word for who I was. All the labels seemed negative and dirty: Lesbian, homosexual, or the worst: dyke. Gay seemed to be the best word, but at the time, I only saw the association with flamboyant men, and that wasn’t me, either. I didn’t know anyone else like me, so, I returned to my books and journals. I wrote about my feelings, my hopes, my dreams, my secret crush on the captain of the cheerleading squad.
I joined the army about a year and a half out of high school, and oh my god! I truly found myself. I loved everything about the military. I got to dress in camouflage, wear boots, crawl around in the dirt, shoot guns (a first for me), and I was in my element. A friend of mine gave me a book with explicit instructions to hide it. I stayed up all night reading Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, and I tell you that book totally changed my life. I realized that I was lesbian/gay/dyke, and there were other people just like me! Except for that one tiny detail…yeah, being lesbian was frowned upon. Now, I knew I couldn’t write—not about this wondrous discovery. Here I was, at this pinnacle moment of young awareness, with so very much to say, and at the same time terrified, knowing if my journals were discovered I’d be thrown out of the army that I loved. So, I didn’t write for years. I kept reading, though, still captivated, getting lost in stories, and learning little bits about myself along the way.
True passion can never be stifled indefinitely. My writing returned with a new vengeance, as if the years spent bottled up, building pressure, exploded like a shaken 2-liter bottle of your favorite soft drink. I had to get my thoughts on the page. Once again, I filled notebooks, with random ideas, poems, phrases and lines, connected only in the sense that they’d originated in my heart. Nothing was off limits. Sometimes the process was scary, other times blissful, but always necessary. Eventually those scattered thoughts coalesced around a character deeply rooted in my own experiences and I realized it contained such a universal message that it was a story I had to tell. I think that’s the lesson.
I have to write. It’s my way of connecting to my fellow souls, wandering around this insane world, trying to find our place. I have to write stories about what’s important to me. My characters live the drama that helps me, and hopefully my readers, take another small step towards figuring it all out on our journey to personal fulfillment. I’m a woman in a man’s world, a lesbian in an overwhelmingly heterosexual world, a struggling novelist with a story to tell, but above all, I’m just an individual longing to be accepted for myself. My books and blogs will always tell our unique and yet completely normal story of the human condition. I hope you’ll join me on my journey.
Thanks for reading~LM