Michelle Longo is a writer and blogger from northern New Jersey who dreams of someday moving to southern California. By day she slings paperwork, but by night she pours her heart out on her blog, The Journey. You can also find her tweeting here or on Facebook here .
When Erin put out the call for guest posts for her Writer Roots series, I carefully crafted replies until I had one that didn’t sound all “Ooh Pick Me!” I’ve always hated inviting myself to a party, even if it’s one I’d really like to go to. But I’ve been trying to get over myself lately so I sent the message, Erin accepted and here we are!
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be a carpenter, a magician, a teacher, a social worker, a lawyer and an assembly line worker. While the other dreams died over time, the writer thing stuck. Even after my fourth grade teacher told me my poem was unacceptable since store, door and poor don’t rhyme, I didn’t give up. Nor did I stop when someone told me my children’s books about a talking hamster with crayon illustrations probably wouldn’t sell. And I still kept writing when my high school creative writing teacher told me that my short story about a girl who lived in the school to avoid her stepfather was far-fetched and ridiculous. I didn’t give up the time she told me my three-act play about teen-pregnancy, abortion and suicide was “inappropriate at best.”
I filled volumes with angsty poems inspired by Jim Morrison and the Twin Peaks series. In college I co-wrote a screenplay about spouse-swapping. I kept writing. I wrote term papers and essays for school and took delight in them. I submitted poems to the chapbooks and zines of friends. I wrote and wrote and wrote.
But I never called myself a writer and I didn’t pursue it outside of a hobby because I was never sure I was good. The Writer Party was one I was afraid to invite myself to and I thought it unlikely that anyone was ever going to read my scraps of paper and decide I was Good Enough to join in.
Then I had a kid and I stopped writing. In my defense, I stopped nearly all manner of thinking and taking care of myself, it wasn’t just the writing I let go. I had lots of important things to do, like child-rearing and cleaning and working.
In 2010, my mother passed away after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. In the months following, the emotions of dealing with an alcoholic father and a very sick mother for all of my 33 years hit me like a ton of bricks. I was becoming an emotional wreck again and there was no outlet for it.
Changes abounded in 2010 - my son turned from toddler to preschooler, my work schedule and responsibilities changed and I started taking some time for myself. I couldn’t get the idea of writing out of my mind. I was writing technical pieces for work and while I enjoyed the practice of writing, the subject matter didn’t feed my soul.
I vowed to write more and write for myself. I signed up for a class and I found a community online that supported my efforts. I told people, out loud with actual words, that I wanted to write and for the most part they pushed me to do what I loved doing.
It turns out that all along I was more than welcome at the party, but no one knew I wanted to be there. Once I spoke up, once I was no longer afraid of rejection, more and more doors opened. Now I write freely and proudly on my blog. I’m making progress on a memoir that I hope to share with the world someday. I write about life as a wife and working mom. I write about growing up in an alcoholic, abusive family and about taking care of my chronically ill mother through my teens, twenties and early thirties.
I no longer say I want to be a writer or I’m trying to be a writer. I say I am a writer. I always have been, I just forgot for a while.