As the world celebrated Valentine’s Day yesterday in one form or another, I reflected on a different kind of love affair I’ve had throughout most of my life—a love of words.
I tried to think back to when that love affair first started. It must have been before kindergarten, when, according to my parents, I stumped an encyclopedia salesman by reading the word “amphibian” out loud from a text he was trying to sell us. I discovered early on the power of words in books, when authors like Judy Blume helped me make sense of the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personalities of upper-elementary and middle-school classmates. If I had to stay home sick from school, I was fine as long as I had buttered toast, ginger ale, and a book.
Somewhere in middle school I began toying around with rhyming poems (they weren’t great, mind you!) and short stories. By the time I reached high school, my friends were shaking their heads over my excitement every time we had to write a response essay to the books we read, whether it was Mark Twain or Pearl S. Buck. I loved nothing more than digging deep into the text, and exploring the underlying meaning beneath the beauty of the words. On the days I felt like an imposter walking through the halls of my high school, my gift with words helped me fit in with my peers. I felt most comfortable banging away on the keys of a typewriter. The Student Government Association contracted me to write a poem for the junior/senior prom program one year, and my words found their way into the pages of our yearbook when I signed on as co-editor.
I knew early on I wanted some type of career with words, and in college I found my way into newswriting. I dove into a “just the facts” mentality with my work on the campus newspaper, and continued writing poetry as a form of therapy on the days when my stress levels reached the breaking point. Through the years I’ve been humbled and grateful each time someone offers to pay me for my words—it truly is a dream occupation, even on the months when I don’t make as much money as I’d like.
But I’ve noticed there’s a fine balance to being busy. Just as I’ve discovered I have to exercise several days a week for my mental health, I also have to write creatively. Right now my home life is pretty crazy with an ill family member and packing the house for an upcoming move, and I’m sad that I haven’t been able to work on a fiction project I wanted to get to. I’ll have to remedy that soon, because as in most relationships, relationships (even ones with words) require a give and take on both sides.
I’d love to hear about your own relationship with words, and how you first discovered it. How do you take time to nurture the relationship with reading and writing each and every day?
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in regional and trade magazines, on parenting and health and wellness websites, and more. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.
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