My hero’s journey

Can one turn a facility for a good turn of phrase into a writing career?  I hope so.

By the time I was in seventh grade, I thought of myself as a writer. “You can write better than that,” I remember my twelfth grade teacher saying when I expressed admiration after hearing a college student read a piece of original writing. Another teacher was disappointed when she couldn’t find me in time to ask my permission to copy a regents essay before she had to turn it in.

I continued to write over the years but didn’t really give it my full attention. I believed I needed to find something to support myself instead of studying writing. I took my Liberal Arts degree and went on to a state college. I studied English… Education. I had no intention of becoming an English teacher but I knew librarians did a lot of teaching and I thought being a school librarian would be a good profession for me. I loved books and I wanted to bring that love to young people.

One of the first classes I took was in research skills where I was required to write an annotated bibliography but I didn’t understand what was wanted so I wrote book blurbs, making them as interesting as I could. When my paper was returned, there was a note at the top saying that the teacher hadn’t been able to find them, but she was sure that I hadn’t written them. I was shocked. Plagiarism was a serious accusation. I took my writing portfolio and went to see her. She ended up enthusiastically telling me how to find grants and fellowships to write. I thanked her but didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t have time to take off work or school and go off to write!

I continued working my way through my Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree. I wrote when I had spare time between college, work and starting a family. I managed to draft a middle grade mystery, write several short stories and essays, and start several other novels that I would still like to finish. Now I wonder – if not now, when? I want to write!

This past week I’ve been listening to an interview of Joseph Campbell recorded back in the 1990’s. He explains that the hero is always fully qualified for the journey he is undertaking though he may not, and often doesn’t, realize this. Sounds like someone I know. Are we the heroes of our own journey? I hope so. Life would be darned boring otherwise.

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What is it about maps?

I mean, beyond the functional usefulness. 

Just the other day I was listening to Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. Through most of the book he decries the lack of accurate maps of the Appalachian Trail, but then he finds the 15 foot model of the trail at the AT Conference office in Harper’s Ferry. He suddenly realizes that if he had seen this before starting out, he might never have done so. I guess it was lucky for him, and those of us who enjoyed the book, that he didn’t find an accurate map beforehand. 

The very next day one of the volunteers in our library told me she was looking for a map of the Danube River from Budapest to Istanbul because they were going on a trip in a few months. All the maps she had seen barely showed that part at all. I found a map for her through Creative Commons on Wikipedia and she was ecstatic. “I just need to be able to picture it, to know how the river moves across the land,” she said. 

I myself have maps of practically everywhere I’ve ever taken a trip. I love being able to look at a map and see where I am in context to the rest of the land and buildings. I guess I like the independence it gives me and the options to go where I want. 

Think of all the people who were compelled to not only explore America, but to map it. Why? Maps fulfill a fundamental need in humans to place ourselves in relation to food… lodging… the comforts of home… the vastness of the universe. To confer order on the unknown. If we can’t know why we’re here, we can at least know where. In order to enjoy our experience we have to know where we are in relation to people, places and things. It is unnerving to be set adrift. When the landmarks change, either because we have moved or our terrain has been rearranged somehow, we need to get our bearings. We cling to what is familiar.

Whoosh!

I can’t believe it has been nearly a year since I posted here.  In the intervening time, I’ve had a baby, gone back to work full time and gotten married.  It hasn’t been easy but I’m back!  I’m hoping to add new material weekly.  Stay tuned!