No Longer A Blank Page

by Donna McLaughlin Schwender

New Year's 2013
Some of the best gifts we ever receive are ones we surprise ourselves with. Twenty-five days before my forty-sixth birthday, I enrolled myself in an online writing course – something I had NEVER done before and that was SO FAR outside my comfort zone it might as well have been a class in pole dancing (no offense to those who enjoy the activity, but it’s just not in the realm of possibility for this ole’ gal and I’m fine with that reality).

When I first saw the Facebook post announcing the class, I was intrigued. For days I kept returning to that message. Never brave enough to comment, but curious enough to keep watching from the sidelines. When a lady finally replied that she had enrolled, I desperately needed to know who this brave woman was, so I clicked on her name to take me to her Facebook page. Before I did though, I made a half-hearted deal with myself that, if this lady miraculously had some connection to “feathers” – a powerful and positive beacon in my life – I would take that as a sign from the universe that I too should FINALLY believe in myself and pursue writing in a way I had never allowed myself to.

Of the billions of people on this planet, the woman whose Facebook page I found myself staring at – as my peripheral vision slipped away and my jaw lost all cohesion with the rest of my face – was (I kid you not!) the author of the book, “All The Dancing Birds.” WTF?!? I wasn’t sure which to be more shocked about – the mind-blowing feather connection or the nerve-wracking fact that I was now committed to taking a writing class with an already-published author.

As someone who is always looking for signs to guide me along life’s path, this one shouted at me so loudly I simply couldn’t find an acceptable reason (a.k.a. “excuse”) to say “no, not now.” Hell – the only thing I could say then was, “Hey Universe, could you have been a little more vague with your input on the subject?!?” Yes – I can be a sarcastic bitch when the opportunity presents itself. And yes – my Navy sailing father bequeathed me not only his passion for writing but also his penchant for swearing when he passed away.

For the entire 37 days of the class, I not only upheld my part of the bargain to “show up” fully and to do the work, I held nothing back. In return, I was given a forum to finally have a reason to use luscious words like “dénouement,” as well as crass phrases like “taking a dump.” I wrote on a banana – not about one, but ON one. I composed my own obituary – and I liked it. I crafted the Author’s Bio for my as-yet unwritten first book – and I came to believe that one day I might be able to see it in print.

The motto of the class was, “Life is short. Write accordingly.” I wrote like I was dying. Some days, I felt like I was. In the end, I never felt more alive. Best. Gift. Ever.

John Green, an award-winning author, is reported to have said, “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” For forty-six years, I wrote alone and in silence. I told myself it was good enough and I truly believed that I was content.

This class revealed the fictional story I had been writing about my own life though. It did so by presenting me with a community of AMAZING women writers – a tribe I had long denied needing but had unknowingly been yearning for. These ladies came flying into my world, gift-wrapped in glitter-encrusted words and wearing writing capes embroidered with encouraging stories. If I was to never write another word (don’t worry dear Universe, that is NOT my game plan), the friendship of these word-slinging sister soul mates will be enough to keep me happy and sane. Second. Best. Gift. Ever.

I’m not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions. I’ve been looking forward to 2013 for many years though. For no other oddball reason than I love the number thirteen. This year – THIS year though – I’m showing up for my life and I’m giving it my all. If that meets the definition of a resolution, so be it. Either way, I’m in. ALL the way in. Are you with me?