Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On Being a Writer.

People, friends, family, folks I’ve never met, have all been calling me a “writer” as of late. Usually, we identify ourselves by our job, our career, what we do to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. You know, the practical things in life. But I’ve always hated being defined by the practical – that’s why I went to conservatory…to music school. For heaven’s sake, there's not one ounce of practicality in that.

But people have started identifying me by what I am, not what I do. And this is a welcome relief. You see, I really don’t like what I do. Who does? I’m told. But yet I hold out the hope that I will, one day. I’m hungry -- and, perhaps foolish. I have to believe that there’s something out there to chase down. Or maybe, it’s growing presently, underfoot. Maybe, I just need to move my left…or, my right. Or…oh I don’t know. But, I have to believe it’s true, just to keep sane.

So -- I’m a writer, they say. It’s what I am. And I’m coming to believe them. In fact, now I realize that I’ve been one even before I started writing.  It’s very much like when in adolescence I grew breasts and realized that yes, I had been a woman all along. Damn.

I have a much similar reaction to the having been a writer, all along.

There is a narrator in my head, and she told me this is true. She has been with me for over 27 years now. She’s me. Sometimes, speaking in baritone.  Sometimes, growling and hissing and howling like a wild animal; sometimes, she makes put-put-put tractor noises like a little boy. And sometimes, dressed for a ball, she sings.

I’ve spent a lot of time alone -- in childhood, and now as an adult. And this narration has been, and is, my way of "talking," I suppose.  We humans have an instinctive urge to share experiences, thoughts, and stories – and this is often where, and how, we get hurt. Self sabotage. Opening up before we truly know what’s out the door waiting.  We are herd animals though, and so we have to take the chance….always, take the chance.

But then, there are the loners, the ones who leave the pack, the ones who purposely separate themselves. These are the artists, the musicians, and the storytellers – they also often happen to be the depressed, haunted, and afflicted. Once removed, they observe -- exploring the tribe's condition from outside – and while it may look like a reclusion, really, it’s quite the opposite. You can’t see the picture, sing the song, or read the novel when you’re in it -- and so there are the artists, musicians, and writers…the storytellers.     

I, am one of them.  

Now, I see that I have been on the outside, telling myself stories my whole life…that narrator describing everything I do, taste, smell and see...back to myself. I thought this was normal. I thought everyone told themselves stories. But as it turns out, they don't. Instead, they listen. They listen for someone to find their experiences words – they wait to be given their own stories back.

This is a great expectation. And yes, one that depresses, haunts, and afflicts.

But so it goes…I am a writer.

86 comments:

  1. Whew - good start to my day. Really enjoyed this one. Thanks!

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  2. funny how we are often the last to know something about ourselves that proves so obvious to everyone else. You most assuredly are, and a darn good one at that. mike

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  3. Yes definitely! And not all bloggers are, by any means. Be proud.

    M

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  4. Music not practical? My sanity disagrees!

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  5. Thanks, all!

    And English Jonny, my finances didn't. ;-)

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  6. well said~ thank you. /It is amazing what we see when we take a moment and reflect/

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  7. A friend once commented that you are in fact that aspect of your life that you like to talk about most at parties and other social events. Be it your job (if you're lucky or sometimes just plain shallow) or another true calling that most likely doesn't pay your bills. Same line of thinking and a haunting and comforting thought at the same time.

    I especially liked your last paragraph. True storytellers are rare. Be proud!

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  8. Hate to say it, Erin.... BUT I TOLD YOU SO!

    Loved the article to tears!

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  9. I'm excited for you. It's a blessing when a talent that we have surfaces and is so notable that it can define who we are in a good way. I'm glad that you found yours, so many don't. JGR

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  10. BTW... who painted you? I thought it was a photo till I clicked on it.

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  11. Yes you can write, and write exceptionally well. But I would argue that you are an even better story teller!

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  12. Agreed! You are a writer, now what is that lovely little fly on that finger end? The dihedral pose makes it simply exquisite!

    Regular Rod

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  13. You are most definitely a writer. Your ability to describe experiences the way others can't is a gift.

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  14. Wow, do I identify with that. My comment is too long, I may have to write a post in response. For the first time in my life I have people who know me only as a writer. Well said as usual. That interior narration is enough to drive you crazy sometimes, and it took me a long time to figure out that most people don't have that.

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  15. I am glad that you have chosen not to be defined by what you do, and defined rather, by who you are. You are the best kind of afflicted.

    Cheers

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  16. Playing with Photoshop, or it's equivalent, I see, too. Fun, isn't it?

    I found Andi through you and I wonder if a writer, like her, should be doing writerly things for a living. Or does what you do for a living not matter. Or would it be better to be completely immersed in writing, even for a living.

    Tough call that one.

    I do like what you did to that image though. No stench of turpentine and linseed oil, I'll bet. Since I seem to be running out of words, I'm appreciating images again. Actually, I always have. Even ones made out of words.

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  17. "I am a writer", and a very decent one too boot!

    Everyone has a story too tell but very few can articulate it in a way that makes an audience want to hear it, you have a knack of telling it just the way it needs to be heard Erin.

    Keep it up :)

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  18. amazing, i feel the same as you. I've done a few different things in life "to pay the bills," but never anything that was truly what I wanted for myself. now, i'm trying to correct that... having an almost 9 month old at home I don't want her to grow up and see me as someone who fell in line, but someone who lived his life the best he could.

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  19. e.m.b. - i hope that in addition to being a writer, some day you become an author. i am going to continue to push for that day to come.

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  20. very nice, I have wondered for some time when does a blogger become a writer, possibly never, you are lucky and generous to share your craft, myself being a blogger who has never written a word that ever sent someone running for a dictionary can only hope to someday be labeled a writer- love the photo of the fly-

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  21. Beautifully put Erin. Like any artiste, your talent may never pay the bills but it will bring you and many others a tremendous amount of pleasure.

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  22. Every culture hs its story tellers, those that pass down invaluable life lessons, history, religion, and skills for survival. We still need that, and you are one of them, "them" that goes back to speech itself. And we listen, to enjoy, if not to survive.

    Thanks, Gregg

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  23. You're welcome ;) and it's an affliction for sure. Even for the aspiring....

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  24. It's nice that this affliction was found and identified by the person who needed to know it the most...you. Yes, artists, musicians and writers are a strange group of people always traveling the outer circles of society...observing and commenting in their own unique ways. I've been trying to fit square pegs in round holes for 60+ years. You've been doing the same thing for the span of your years as well.

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  25. Isn't discovering who we really are, one of those Internal Mysteries?

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  26. I have recently started to learn to play the Irish Tenor Banjo. I believe myself to be a banjo player. I have very recently started to sketch and paint and I believe I will be an artist. I don't think I have to do these things to everybody's taste in order to get there. I don't believe I will ever make these things my career, nor should I.
    I have just started writing, and would love some day to succeed in telling stories in anywhere near as eloquent or moving a fashion as you can.
    You are a writer, a quite brilliant writer, and that, I think, is obvious for anyone to see.

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  27. You have that ability to put into words your thoughts...exceptionally well.

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  28. Brian – Thanks for stopping by; and yes, it is.

    PdeW – Thanks, and I think your friend is correct.

    FlyFishingCrazy - ;-) And it’s a photo that Jay adjusted in a photo shop program.

    JGR – I’m glad I found mine too….passion is something not everyone finds.

    bfly – That is quite the distinction, and compliment! Thanks!

    Regular Rod – The bug in question is a Mayfly, and the photo was taken last August at Ouzel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a fantastic trip, and the photo the best of it.

    Kev – Truly, many thanks.

    FR – It’s weird, isn’t it. Being a “writer” before your “profession.” And, I’m very much looking forward to your post…I know you will write one....you’re a writer, you have to. ;-)

    Sanders – Thanks! And I think you have chosen the same thing, no? :)

    Ken G – Jay was, yes….quite awhile ago, and I found it in the last season’s photo file. Andi does to writerly things for a living, so I’m confused of your question. I think complete immersion can at once be bad and good. I’ve heard it argued that the best sorts of jobs for writers/artists are monotonous, so that your mind can wander and create while you work. There is something to that…very monastic. No question in my mind why most art throughout the centuries has been created and preserved by those in a monastic life.

    Tom Herbert – Many thanks…and I will!

    Tom Ham – That’s awesome! And I think your daughter will see just that, a father who lived and lived well, with passion. All the best…

    Yukon – It might come sooner than we both think. ;)

    Emily – Your comment totally made me smile.

    Fish Tales – Thanks for stopping by! And the lines of writer/author/blogger/artist are getting more and more blurred….which is good in ways and bad. And always interesting.

    Dave – That is my consolation…that perhaps my ramblings and wanderings may bring another soul joy when they need it. Thanks for the kind words of assurance that on occasion, they do.

    Gregg – I love how you put that, as “skills for survival.” For individuals and their civilization, it’s so true. Many thanks, as always!

    River Mud – Dare I say especially for the aspiring…?

    Howard – Round pegs in square. Sigh. Yes, I know…

    Kirk – Thanks…

    Richard – One of many. Just scratching the surface.

    Mark – Tenor Banjo. Brilliant! My 5-string is sitting in my spare bedroom, certainly feeling quite unloved at the moment. The thing I have always wondered: is one who plays the banjo a “banjoist” “banjoer” or “banjo player.” All other instruments get “ist” and it seems unfair to the banjo. ;)

    BrkTrt – Many thanks.

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  29. Naw. You're an upright finger in the cosmos holding an ephemeral aquatic insect as its wings dry. Then you, and I, die. Fodder for compost heap.

    Dang. Shouldn't have seen Tree of Life before I wrote this.

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  30. DareellKuni - That stinks of resignation. I can't have that. Until I'm composting, I'm going to "be" something more than a finger in the cosmos.

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  31. You got my point. I always wondered if getting into the graphic arts killed my interest in painting. I spent more time painting when I was a janitor and a picture framer. Mundane jobs indeed.

    One of my neighbors is an artist/painter. Teaches art/painting. Told me recently he doesn't paint much anymore.

    Andi is unique I think. I don't know how she does it. I struggle to write a paragraph lately. She just lets it pour out.

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  32. Erin your blog is my new year's addiction. Thanks for writing things that resonate rather than merely pontificate.

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  33. See there was this dino in Tree, helpless on a streambed. Raptor-type sniffs air, approaches, uh oh.

    Scaly foot goes down onto helpless young 'un, you think oh well, great circle of life, sometimes you're the prey, sometimes the predator.

    Then a big rock hurtles from space. Happy New Year.

    Ribbing ya, love your stuff.

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  34. Ken G - Andi is a great old friend, and a daily inspiration, like you say. I flubbed my chance at leading am entirely "creative" life....I should have married rich. ;) And I know what your neighbor means...when I was teaching music, there was very little left in me that wanted to play myself.

    Mark - Ah, well I'm glad! Many thanks for the good words.

    DarrellKuni - You're a Hoot with a capital H. I love it. As an aside, have you ever read Brautigan?

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  35. Hello Erin, that’s the most beautiful (and most confusing) new years, good intentions story that I’ve read so far on any blog. I’m very pleased that you finally recognized yourself (although clearly with some doubts) as a writer. So I wish you a very happy ‘writing and fishing’ new year!!!

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  36. lonesome piker - Ah confusion...my most constant state. ;) All the best (of life and pike!) to you in the coming year as well.

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  37. Brautigan? Brautigan?! slowly I turn.

    I am a lonely male baetis, cannot pierce surface film to lay eggs. Don't even develop eggs. Have to meet a girl and mate in air and that's rough. Where's the justice?

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  38. Thank you for putting a great ending to a long work day. Story telling that soothes the soul.

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  39. Nice way of expressing how you experience writing. I'm still waiting for the time when the sentences being spoken in my head stop overlapping each other when they are only one quarter finished. At least I can read lots of others, including great writers such as yourself. For that, thank you! Take care -

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  40. EMB, you are a most skilled raconteur.

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  41. Ditto what Yukon said about thirty comments ago.

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  42. I've heard some say writers are only "Writers" if they're published (note the cap), but I always believed writers are people who compulsively perform the act of arranging words in hopefully pleasing ways, publication or not.

    After all, I've been a fulltime professional "Writer" for more than 25 years, yet I'd suggest I wasn't really writing until I started scribbling about things that mattered to me, for which I am paid almost nothing.

    Sanity has its costs, I suppose.

    Wonderful stuff, as usual.

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  43. Yep. Definitely! You dare allow yourself to experience those secret places most people do not allow themselves to encounter, and then you share them with complete strangers. But for some reason we feel like we know you a little too. I'll print this post out and paste it into my journal so I can show someone someday she started writing as a blogger. Big fan of your poetry too : )

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  44. Darrell – I don’t understand…perhaps I’ve had too much to drink. ;)

    Tonto – Glad I could put a nice ‘cap’ on it for you.

    Casey – I think you might be waiting forever…my thoughts’ sentences are overlapping and interrupting constantly. They aren’t very polite. Thanks as always for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

    Mr. P - Thank you much.

    Ty - Well thanks! ;) We’ll see what this year brings.

    TC/TroutUnderground – I’ve heard the distinction of one not being an “author” until one is published. In print. I think lines of all kinds are being blurred in very interesting ways. Many thanks for your good words…and yes, sanity does have its cost. Although I suppose craziness does too.

    Upacreek – Do you have a magic crystal seeing-into-the-future ball or something? ;)

    Finsandfeathers – Wow! Thank you so much for your kind words! It always makes me feel very honored to be thought worthy of being “printed out.” My grandmother prints out special emails and blog posts and cards and pastes them in her journal too. I can’t tell you what your comment means to me…but I’ll have you know it’s left me wearing a big-smile.

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  45. "Sometimes, growling and hissing and howling like a wild animal; sometimes, she makes put-put-put tractor noises like a little boy. And sometimes, dressed for a ball, she sings." I like this :-)

    So my Erin you have found your voice, now go and sing.

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  46. I'm kinda late to the party, but for what it's worth... yes, you are a writer indeed... and I'm with Yukon.
    Also, I would like an advance copy for review whenever it gets published. Thanks in advance.

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  47. "They listen for someone to find their experiences words – they wait to be given their own stories back."
    If a writer can give me this, they'll get my attention, appreciation and admiration. You've done just that. :)

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  48. (With respect)

    By George, I think she's got it!

    Regards
    Alan

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  49. sgb – “la la la!!!” Just like Babe. ;)

    Jay – An advance copy is yours. Promised.

    FlyAnglerGirl – I’m very happy that my words can do that for you…thank you, so much, for reading…

    Alan – Many thanks. :-)

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  50. I agree with TC regarding writers and the compulsion to rearrange words in hopefully pleasing ways. You do it well. I don't know how many drafts you go through before you post but if you tell me its all stream of consciousness, with everything fully developed at birth, I will take a long, one-way walk into the deep, cold woods and be found next spring like a bag of freezer burned peas protruding from a snow drift. I'd pin a note to my chest, leaving my Hawken .50 to whoever found me, and explaining myself, but it would probably take me six drafts and by the time I was done it would be summer, so never mind.

    You write, we read.

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  51. Yes, you are a writer - and a fisherwoman and outdoors person :)

    All the best in the new year - may your futher posts be as entertaining and insightful as this one!

    Cheers!

    J.

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  52. With all the comments about getting published, you have enough of a following to go the self-publishing route initially. I have a bunch of them bookmarked but haven't decided which is best.

    Hard cover with color imagery would be good for you.

    In Jay's book, I'm on the Alaska/Valerie adventure. Hopefully he's become a much better conversationalist :-)

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  53. As defined on Dictionary.com, 'defn. 3 - a person who commits his or her thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing....is a writer.' So you are.

    Many of us have these thoughts rattling around the cranium, but few can regurgitate them in type as eloquently. Thanks for what you put down here.

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  54. Quill – Drafts? Oh yes…this one was a few months in progress (don’t take that “walk” into the woods!). I lost count of drafts, but nothing ever just “comes out” as it’s published. My stream of consciousness isn’t very readable, I’m afraid.
    Jindra – And all the best to you too, my friend!

    Ken G – Oh believe me…I’m working on it. ;) And I can testify that Jay is now an excellent conversationalist!

    Rhythm Rider – Thanks for the words…and definition! :)

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  55. E, don' worry, no sense to make. Write on.

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  56. that's a beautiful entry. i miss coming to this blog. i was listening to this podcast and the man was saying that the ultimate definition of success is being able to do what you love and getting recognised for doing that. it's not about the person who makes a lot of money but is so tired out by the whole business.I hope one day to reach that stage too (: x

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  57. Darrell - okie dokie then!

    Shu Han - Many thanks for reading and for checking back in. I've always remembered your "herb butter" post and do that often. :) That podcast sounds very interesting...and my dad has always said something similar, that he'd rather have a job and a life than have his job be his life. All the best to you in the coming year!

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  58. I always hear a down to earth honesty. A little sarcasm but still embracing all that is beautiful in this world. I will always remember you and that snapper. Still one of the best fish tales in a long time. I have a sense you would excel at whatever you put your mind to.

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  59. Herringbone - You read my words truly. And yes, I think I may forever be known as "turtle woman." ;)

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  60. Well said. Congratulations on further embracing the one who is Erin. And for embracing the calling of writing. Risky to actually claim it, eh? But when the wild horse nuzzles you, get on and ride!

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  61. Jim - Risky indeed! And I very much understand and relate to the wild horse analogy....I helped break in a mustang once. She was beautiful...and I couldn't say no.

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  62. Erin: Beautiful! I had no idea...but it fits.

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  63. Why is it that reading your essays tends to make me laugh, smile, and tear up in rapid succession? No wonder you have such addicted followers.

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  64. Which 'mayfly' though? It looks like a little spinner and my little PPS would be just right for a fake.

    In England we reserve the name 'mayfly' for the Drake which comes in May (and June) and is about 2 inches long...

    Regular Rod

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  65. Hart - I have no idea...but I am glad of it!

    Regular Rod - That I do not know...I will try to figure it out though. For your curiosity and mine!

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  66. Erin!

    ... that baetid spinner!!!

    Gotta be a true #24, and made my day.

    Andy

    PS - I did NOT overlook your fine words :)

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  67. Andy - Thank you thank you!!! Baetid spinner. I will remember...for future use! (and I think that spinner is quite worthy of stealing the show!) :-)

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  68. The wastepaper basket is the writer's best friend.
    - Isaac Bashevis Singer

    And I like Ursula Le Guin's statement that "All writers are liars. I am telling the truth."

    Samuel Johnson might have wished condolences, but it'd be a compliment.

    Enjoy your passion, that's all that matters.
    Cheers
    Mike

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  69. Mike - Wastepaper basket, undo, delete...yes, they and I are well acquainted. And on we go. Hope you're enjoying your beach! ;)

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  70. Thanks for this essay. It's always inspiring to see someone embrace their purpose, newfound or rediscovered.

    It's funny, trying to capture the voice of one's own humble narrator... it can be hard to find the right rhythm to stick with it. I mean, who doesn't love to tell stories? But they can be quite slippery when it comes to the commitment of putting the proverbial pen to paper. Love the product; still feeling for the right process. I gotta try morning time, before the vagaries of the day have a chance to carry me away.

    Your writing is an inspiration to stick with it. I suppose, like all things, it comes through steadfast practice. Writers write.

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  71. See now why I baffled you, that's a Baetis spinner and a male judging by the upturned, red eyes.

    Once, on a Baetis day, cold and drizzly, I saw pal Marcello had females walking down his neoprenes. Heading down they pierced the surface, we looked at patches of whitish eggs on his thighs.

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  72. Backcountry Gentleman - Ah you're welcome! Thank you for reading. It's a hard path to be sure, but yes, stick with it! Write!

    Darrell - I see now why you baffle me...yes. :-)

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  73. "But so it goes…I am a writer."

    Yes and a wonderful writer who writes beautifully.

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  74. danontherock - Many thanks for reading, and the kind words!

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  75. been away from the computer for a couple good weeks, great to here your conclusion erin... you are a great writer I always love reading your stuff... oh and a slight alteration to the comment your dad made about working.. I've always thought (I'm sure I heard it somewhere)... Don't live to work, work to live.. keep it all up!!

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    1. Travis - Thanks for stopping by to read! I really like the way you phrase it, "Don't live to work, work to live." I think I'll write it on an index card and paste it to my computer at work. ;) It'll keep me going. Thanks again!

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  76. Erin, I truly enjoyed that post, and yes, you are a writer and perhaps always have been a writer. Writers...well they write, often taking for granted the ability to string words into coherent sentences that others enjoy reading. I think writers, especially writers who don't make a living writing, unpaid writers, have a tendency to not refer to themselves as writers, but yet they write and therefore, by definition, must be writers.
    One of the abilities of a true writer, in my opinion, is when your words strike a chord of recognition with your readers. Your post did that to me. Like you, I spent a lot of time alone as a child with no brothers or sisters. I wrote stories in my head, I imagined things all the time, and in some ways it could be said, my imagination became my friend, so maybe that is one way we become writers. At the same time, writers are, pardon the word, "voyeurs" in the sense that whether we participate or not, we watch life and report on it in one way or another, either as fact or as fiction. Even as a participant I find myself describing the moment in my mind.
    I enjoyed your post very much, sorry to write such a long comment.

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    1. Rob - I am delighted at your comment. It's a great encouragement, and thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts. "whether we participate or not, we watch life and report on it in one way or another"...that's a perfect description. And "my imagination became my friend"...yes yes! When so many people, I think, treat it as a stranger. Thank you so much, again...for taking the time to read and comment. Cheers....E

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