Early in the old movie, The Third Man, Joseph Cotton’s character, Marsden, says, “I’m a writer.”
Easy. Quick. Confident. “I’m a writer.”
Marsden comes to Paris because of an offer–a job as a writer.
Our book, Four Ordinary Women, is a published work. I wrote about 1/4 of that book, put my thoughts on the pages, but am I a writer?
My sons have asked me to autograph a copies of Four Ordinary Women to be used as gifts. One son requested a book for a former student who is a writer. That was outside— far outside— my comfort. Jessieh is a writer. My words are part of a book.
I love to write. I love to find words that fit, that lock in my thoughts, that are refreshing rain on the wonderful passage of a life. But does that qualify? Am I a writer?
Over the last months, it became increasing difficult to leave the house as if staying home could protect what wasn’t there anymore. In those months, the manic side of grief pushed hard. Staying home did not feel like being a coward. Rather it was taking care of long neglected business.
Dusting is a dull business. Sorting is sad and wandering room to room has no destination. Time to lock the door behind me and engage, find an activity that required my focus.
Enrolling in a creative writing class at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas felt wobbly. I attended that school in 1956-1958 and am now older than the current professors. In the ’50’s, the number of black and Hispanic students was a one-hand count. Today the number of old white women is a count of one.
Donnelly is in a converted hospital building, a building where I worked my high school years and where, much later, my youngest son was born. A friend and I volunteered hours at this Donnelly so the building has the feel I need, safety, comfort and a challenge.
Nine people enrolled though six is the average attendance. No back row in which to hide. Silence is not an option, and I am grateful for that. It is good to be forced to speak, to participate, to express and to disagree.
The young students are amazing, articulate and able to reach far into the material, giving perspectives, forcing me to stay awake at night rehashing parts of the discussions.
My problem is the syllabus, the expectation that each of us produce two short stories, works of fiction meshing with the structure presented in lecture. The good news is that the problem is also the solution, the force that is pushing me along, getting back to a measure of belief in myself. Who knows? After this class, I just might mimic Joseph Cotton, hold up my stories and say, “I am a writer”.