Mix that in a blender and that’s my experience with writing. It feels like going around the world. Throughout the last thirty years I have used words to inform and persuade, to entertain and amuse, to sell concepts and arguments to juries and judges, to expose and protect, to convict and to exonerate, to change perceptions and create them. All this time, in some capacity, form or fashion, I have been telling stories.
Storytelling, as I have come to understand, is an art available for mastering to those who are not afraid to embrace their talent, risk exposure, and endure criticism. As a writer, my aspiration is to try. I may fail, but I will not regret trying. I will only regret not trying. Success in writing comes down to desire, discipline, and accountability. Deadlines help. Expectations help. Dream and drive are mandatory. For me, structure is critical.
Somebody to call the docket and demand pages to help me crack my own whip.
Someone to say, “When are you coming out? When will you be done? Are we there yet?” Finally, I am ready for the challenge, the adventure. Forty-something years after my mom vanished into that abyss of no choice, I understand why. The vanishing? Necessary. The abyss? Unavoidable. The choice? Involuntary. I understand because writing no longer plays a role in my life. It is my life.
When I was ten years old, my mother disappeared into the cheery sunroom of our central Florida home to write a novel and did not emerge until I had a driver’s license. If she wasn’t in the kitchen packing our lunches or making dinner, tormenting her piano students with the dreaded metronome at the Kawai in the living room, or hosting bridge games or swanky gatherings, that’s where I’d find her – nose buried in history and library books, mind meandering through dictionaries and thesauruses, body surrounded by white-out and well organized stacks of draft chapters marked in shorthand with red ink. She kept detailed notes penciled on index cards in an index box on a glass table next to her glass ashtray, which was always occupied by Virginia Slims.
I can still hear the sound of the typewriter keys. Their furious click, click, click, followed by a bout of silence. Click, click, click and the ding of the carriage return. And, sometimes, the zip of paper ripping from the roller mechanism, accompanied by a frustrated sigh. I nestled in the corner she designated as mine, happily reading Judy Blume, E.B. White, C.S. Lewis, whatever was handed me to consume. Inevitably though, I would succumb to my instinct to nag her. “When are you coming out? When will you be done? Are we there yet?” For every relentless “one more time” I must have annoyingly begged of her when I was wee, my mother, driven by a similar innate force, now answered every time, “Ten more minutes,” and shooed me out.
Writing is a part of the writer like an unchangeable trait. Like eye color or age, it is an immutable characteristic. Of course, it’s only easy to connect the dots looking back. In the rear view mirror of my mind I can see the origin of mine there in the sunroom as I soaked it all in, reading book after book, awaiting my turn at the typewriter. The year sixteen candles decorated my invisible birthday cake, I fell in love with a boy. Poetry and prose began pouring from that place inside me I was too naive to name but too entranced to stop. I devoured my Freshman English assignments. While many others suffered angst, I felt joy. It continued that way – switching my major in college from English to journalism to get more writing experience, turning real life events into stories toward a BA and writing fiction, poems and prose just because. Writing just to write. During those years, I learned about writing as a life-long love I would sometimes hate but never betray. And then came law school. There I learned about words in an entirely different way, one that intimidated me initially, for I discovered the different kinds of powers they possess –to effect change and help humanity, but also to damage and destroy.
Liz holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Denver
and a J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law.