The Many Definitions of ‘Writer.’

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I’m fairly certain it was the college application essay for the school I ended up going to (University of Richmond) where I wrote a portrait of a future self. I envisioned a life where I was driving a smart car to work, dressed to the nines, prepped for the fast-paced environment of a newspaper or magazine. I was the hero of many of the chicklit novels I would read in my 20s.

I knew that I wanted to be a mother, too, and have no recollection of how I thought those things would mesh back then, at 17, when it all seemed so far off. Perhaps I’d write novels from home when I had small children scurrying around my feet, or poetry with my toes in the sand on vacation in the Bahamas with a nanny.

I thought I might meet a man from New England, one of the types loaded with cash who made a habit of coming to Richmond, and fulfill a dream of living in Boston or New York City – despite the fact that I’d never visited that part of the country at all. In my heart, I just knew I was a big-city girl. A woman full of posh style under her New York and Company duds and childhood chub that wouldn’t seem to disappear.


Entering college I intended to major in Journalism with a minor in International Studies, perhaps. I’d taken coursework in French and Chinese in high school; and while French no longer enthralled me, everything about the Chinese culture was fascinating to me.

I got a C+ in my intro journalism course and found, well, it really didn’t suit me at all. Nothing about newspapers excited me. It was an election year, the fall of 2000, the first time I could vote at all, and I could not muster up the least bit of enthusiasm about it.

In time, I found my place as an English major, the major many of my close friends had chosen, and it was late enough in my college career I had to play a little bit of catch-up. My semesters were loaded with English courses, and I loved it. I loved the reading, writing, thinking, highlighting. I loved Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Shakespeare and Julian of Norwich and Salman Rushdie. I loved South Asian lit, children’s lit, Renaissance lit, fantasy, science fiction, religious texts … and basically everything except American literature in the 1860s. (Emerson. Thoreau. Melville. Dickinson. Blech.)

But it puzzled me, what kind of career path this would lead me on. For a while I thought I would go to divinity school and pursue collegiate ministry. Married and in Nashville, I performed a brief stint as a daycare worker before landing a job at a publishing house – but in customer service. I settled in editing, but still longed to do the writing side. I wrote leader’s guides and clarified for speakers-turned-authors. I found solace as a blogger, honing the craft of writing 300 words at a time.

In the years since I “retired” from my full-time job, I’ve muddled around, once again reclarifying what being a writer is at this point in my life. I get paid more for it, but write less than I ever did as a high-school student penning Hanson fan fiction with my sister, a college English major, or even a lowly copy editor working on others’ manuscripts.

I miss sitting down and letting words flow just for the enjoyment of it, to see syllables come together and dance. To see plots twist, romances bloom, and colors become scenery.

A mother’s life can be so filled with tedium it’s hard to lift yourself out of the everyday and see the divine. And what else is a writer but an artist, someone who sees differently, who can capture in words what others might only see through a paintbrush or in dreams or a passing thought?

My diary ATC

I’ve been a writer since I could spell simple words, penning poems on an ancient IBM in the basement of our house in Bristol, Indiana. I’ve written in locked diaries in Richmond, Virginia; in four dorm rooms and many computer labs at the university. I’ve tried to conquer National Novel Writing Month, caught my breath to see my name in tiny print alongside Angela Thomas’s and Priscilla Shirer’s and Kelly Minter’s. I’ve written articles about nutrition, ministries, friends, recipes, health, blogs, vitamin D, and lawn maintenance while kids run laps around three living rooms. I’ve blogged through 7 years of life and love, infertility and childbirth, recipes and dining hall fare, four homes and a foreclosure.

I’ve found that writer is such a broad word, encompassing much, surrounding me despite my phase, stage, city. Oh so much larger than a 17-year-old girl in her parents’ kitchen could have imagined.


photo sources: Shannon Hauser, jimmiehomeschoolmom

Inspired by and added to Mary’s link-up answering the question: When you graduated from high school, what did you think you’d be doing now?

2 thoughts on “The Many Definitions of ‘Writer.’

  1. This is beautiful, Jessie. No doubt in my mind (not that there ever was) that you are a writer – a great one. And aside from your words here being pretty, you have a great point. “Writer” CAN be defined many ways, in different seasons, for different people. I love the way you’ve held onto this big, defining part of you. I’m glad you write. 🙂

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