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True to Life: Step Two

                                                                           2
                                                          Allow yourself to begin
W
hat
makes a writer? Simply, the need to process thought and experience by putting
words on a page, and the discipline to sit
until the work is down, reworked, and finished. And something more: not just
the courage, but the craft and technical skill to make the words meaningful to
others, whether they find an audience right away or not.
In Amsterdam, in 1942, just before the Nazis drove
her family into hiding, a thirteen-year-old girl was given a plaid notebook for
her birthday. Anne Frank made sense of the insanity of global conflict and the hardships of her daily life by
scribbling in that notebook. She wrote with the passion, clarity, and insight
of a born writer; she edited her work, too, with an eye to publication.
Anne Frank changed the world. When the diary was
discovered and published after her death in Bergen-Belsen, her words forever
altered the way the world looked at the Nazi atrocities of the Second World
War. Six million Jewish men, women, and children died in the Holocaust, but one
of them was a child with a name, a face, and a wise, unforgettable voice. In 1999,
Time magazine
published its selection of the “Hundred Most Influential People of the
Twentieth Century.” Along with great world
leaders, scientists, warriors,
movie stars, and artists, the list included a girl shut in an attic with
a notebook.
A writer is someone who needs to write, who finds a
way to get the words onto paper, and who works to make those words tell a
living story. And sometimes a writer is a person who changes the world with
words.
Do you feel that this definition leaves you out?
What would it take for you to consider yourself a writer? Untamed Margaret
Atwoodesque hair? A garret in Paris? A literature prize? If you set the bar too
high, you’ll never start. How about seeing your name in print somewhere, above
or below a piece of your writing? Would that be enough? We’ll work on that.
In the meantime, how about a notebook full of your
words? They’re written, aren’t they? So didn’t a writer write them?
Don’t cut yourself off and count
yourself out.
Every writer has
to start somewhere.
CBC Radio host Eleanor Wachtel interviews writers
from around the world for her superb program
Writers and Company, a must for anyone interested in literature
(broadcast on Sunday afternoons on CBC Radio One; available as a podcast at
cbc.ca). She was once asked what, if anything, the hundreds of writers she has
talked to have in common. She replied, “They all define themselves as
outsiders.”
Haven’t you always been something of an outsider? So
you fit the bill. And if you don’t define yourself as an outsider, you fit
another bill.
Enough with the self-doubt. You’re going to write.
Let’s get to work.
                                                  
The writer must be universal in sympathy and
an outcast by nature; only then can he see clearly.
Julian Barnes
Why shouldn’t you have the right to become who
you are?
Wayson Choy



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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