How to Be a Writer

MarisaMohiContributed by Marisa Mohi, April Blogger of the Month.

My friend, Katie, and I text all day. Usually it’s just us trying to distract ourselves from work, or talking about how badly we need to get together and eat naughty carbs. The other day, we got on to the subject of our chosen profession as writers, and wondered if we should instead become accountants. After all, there ain’t much money in toiling away at a keyboard, bleeding out on a blank document. We both concluded we would stick with writing. It’s not that we didn’t want that sweet CPA paycheck. It’s just that beyond word and page counts, we’re crap with numbers.

One of my favorite bands of all time is Less Than Jake. I remember seeing them at Deep Ellum in Dallas when I was 16 with my then-best friend. It was the single most amazing thing I had ever seen at that time. I had heard friends talk about going to a worship service and feeling God in the room. What I felt there was probably the closest thing to transcendence I’ll ever achieve. In 2004, the band released a record called B is for B-Sides. One of the songs is called “National Anthem.” My favorite lines in the song are

My American Dream is to have it a little bit better than my parents ever had it
My American Dream is to have it a little bit better than it’s just a force of habit

In a travel writing class I took in grad school, my classmate, Abigail, and I got on the subject of writing. We both knew we had been doing it forever. We had always been told that we were pretty good at it. But we couldn’t remember a time not writing, and we didn’t know if we kept writing because we liked it, of if it was just because it came naturally to us. We didn’t ponder too long. We had a few assignments due that day before we could hit the beaches of Vieques in Puerto Rico.

In the second grade, I read Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I remember being struck by the book. Ramona’s family was on a budget that she felt as she got on the bus to go to her first day of third grade. Ramona’s parents argued, just like mine, and there was no magical perfection like I saw daily in sit-coms. There is no grand action in the plot, and everyone in the Quimby family goes on living their lives, just trying to get by. It was the realest thing I had read at the time. To this day, it may still be. I remember being in awe of that book, and thinking I could maybe do something similar someday.

My ten-year high school reunion is coming up in August. I have zero intentions of attending. Facebook came out my freshman year of college, and I’ve kept in touch with the people I wanted to keep in touch with. But there has been a lot of talk lately about who does what for a living, who works where, and who got rich. For the past ten years I’ve cared about that more than I should have. I’ve worked jobs and neglected the one thing I went to school for—the one thing that I’m pretty sure I was put on this earth to do.

While I’ve gotten some great experience, there are parts of me, intangible pieces of my spirit, that are dying. They are the bits that swoon when spring comes and I have to read e.e. cummings poems on a porch in my bare feet or I’ll die. They are the parts that describe tastes with familiar sounds, and emotions with a particular grit of sandpaper. They are the parts that draw connections to things that shouldn’t be connected. They are the parts that need to call in sick so I can drink beer on patio with a friend and talk about love and the universe and what everything means. They are the parts of me that make me a writer—whatever that means.

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