Missy Stevens writes, blogs, raises a couple boys with a very good man, and fails at homemaking in Austin, Texas. She’s a reformed social media addict, meaning she’s only on Facebook and Twitter part of every day now. You can also find her once a week or so on her blog, Wonder, Friend.
When I was in third grade I had to do a project based on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I had a snack, watched an ABC After School Special, and buckled down to do my work. Seconds later I was at an impasse, unsure if the king’s name was spelled Arthur or Author.
I sat at my desk, the creamy one with little flecks of gold in the finish and golden trim on the edges, and made a decision: I could get the encyclopedia and look up the correct spelling for this king’s name. I am sure, though, that people who write books are authors, so I’m just going to run with that. I am going to write about King Author and the Knights of the Square Table.
Even for an eight-year-old, simply changing spelling and shape was not an act of genius. Yet, my story was a hit. Changing those details freed me up to play with other elements and create my own version.* My teacher read it to the class and pinned it to the bulletin board.
I’m shy. The teacher’s attention horrified me. Horror and all, I couldn’t deny the thrill of reaching people through my story. After that, I never stopped writing.
But I never called myself a writer.
Through yearbook staffs, a stint on the college newspaper, English and journalism degrees, gainful employment as a copywriter and editor, I never called myself a writer. What if someone asked, Well, what do you write?
What do I write? Just crap was the answer rattling around in my head. I assumed I would never write anything substantial, because I’m a first-born-people-pleaser. I was terrified of writing something that might offend a friend or family member or anyone I had ever met. The terror created a din of self doubt.
After having my second son, I struggled with baby blues and feeling inadequate. I Googled something along the lines of “Will I ever be able to handle having two children? Dear God in Heaven, this really sucks,” and found Heather Armstrong. Hers was my gateway blog, leading to a full-blown blog reading habit.
I began to wonder if maybe… I could blog, too? When my youngest was around ten months old and the baby blues were long gone, I did just that. Through blogging I’ve shed some of that people-pleasing-paranoia. I’m still shy, and it’s scary to write in a public space. I am who I am, those feelings linger. They’re just quieter now.
Now, I’m way more afraid of not writing than I am of offending anyone. I believe in the power of words. I believe, to paraphrase Spiderman’s grandmother, that power comes with responsibility. Using that power doesn’t mean my words will resonate with everyone. My brand of humor and sarcasm have been misunderstood before; they will be again. Using the power of words means, simply, that I will always do my best to tell my stories honestly.
Now, I say I’m a writer. I tell people that I’m working – slowly – on a fiction project, experimenting with some non-fiction, and of course, blogging. I don’t have a lot of public success under my belt; I have collected some no thank you’s.
I’m good with that. It means I’m writing. It means I will forever hold a tender place for King Arthur and his knights, for it was their stories that first opened the door to mine.
*I illustrated my story, too. I put my thumb on a stamp pad, and made thumbprint knights. Over the years I also made thumbprint mice, elves, pigs, and more. I was a gifted thumbprint artist.
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