When I was a child, living on a farm, the nearest daily newspaper was the Elyria (Ohio) Chronicle/Telegram. I loved reading it every day and I had a dream that someday I would be published in that august periodical.
When I was about twelve, the newspaper started a humor column: you could send in items that were funny and, if they liked yours, they’d publish it. I was so excited! The problem was, life on the farm wasn’t exactly a laugh fest. Still, I began looking for material.
Weeks’ later, I was going outside and my Mom yelled, “Put on sunscreen!” I dutifully grabbed the can of foamy sunscreen and put it all over my arms and legs. It smelled weird, but, oh well. Later on, when I came home, my mom said to me, “You know that ‘sunscreen’? Do you know what it really was?” I hate rhetorical questions, so I admitted that I didn’t know. “Bathroom cleaning foam!” she chirped.
Eureka! At last, I had something funny to write about. I wrote it and they published it. I was a writer! (thanks to bathroom cleaning foam).
In high school, I was the editor of the school newspaper. I had a dream: to change that school for the better. I wrote an editorial protesting some poorly-executed school policy and suggested an alternative.
The power of the written word rules!
Not. I was called into the principal’s office and told, “You can’t say that, it’s too upsetting. We’re taking it out. Write something less controversial.” End of conversation. I protested, but, to no avail.
About fifteen years’ ago: while working as a psychotherapist, I started offering workshops, some specifically for gay, bisexual, and transgender men. Typically, after those workshops ended, there were always a few guys who came up to me and said (in whispered tones), “You’ve got to put this stuff in a book.”
My response was some version of “You’re very kind. Thank you so much.” And then I immediately forgot the idea. I was writing a column for the Gay and Lesbian Times and that was enough “writing” for me. But, the idea of writing a book took root. I dreamed about it, but, had no idea how to make it happen.
A few years’ later, a writer friend of mine in L.A. saw some of my columns and recommended me to his publisher as a “potential” author. The publisher asked me to submit an idea for a book. I did. They liked it. Wow! Could this really happen?
Well, not really. What happened next is straight out of David Sedaris: the publisher assigned me to an editor, who was very encouraging and wanted me to send him new stuff almost every day. So I worked like a fiend, writing, rewriting, rerewriting (is that a word?) for weeks until, finally, it seemed like we were getting close to something.
One day I got a strange email from the editor, telling me he had resigned from the publisher and suggesting I contact a writer’s agent he knew. I was in shock.
It gets worse. Do you know why Mr. Editor dumped me? So he could quit the publishing business and go into a Zen Ashram. My book was sacrificed for his peace of mind? How unfair.
So I pouted. For about two years (I’m good at pouting). Then I woke up and realized: I can still write the book.
And I did.
I have always enjoyed writing, mostly because I love reading: writers are my heroes. Ariel Levy, Charles M. Blow and Frank Bruni are just a few of my favorite LGBT writers. I used to compare myself with them and decided that I wasn’t talented enough to write a book, until the universe kept nudging me to do it.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of work – over many years – but, finally, on June 8th, my dream came true. So, at the risk of being sappy, I want to encourage YOU to hold onto YOUR dreams, whatever they are. If there is something you love to do but no one’s encouraging you; do it anyway. Don’t do it for the fame or money; do it because you love it and it makes you happy.
That’s why I write. And that’s why my dream came true.