When I was in grade 7, I got it in my head that I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t know what kind, I just knew I wanted to be a writer. When I was in grade 7 (or age 12 if you’re not sure what that means) what “being a writer” meant to me five things:

1.) Wearing really beautiful clothes, including a sash around your waist, a skirt that was just high enough on your legs, a scarf, an oversize pair of glasses, and a perfectly darling hat

2.) Going to conferences and book signings, with a Mont Blanc pen, ready to autograph, armed with a fresh tube of lipstick so I could kiss the autographs for that special extra touch

3.) Drinking lots of coffee, lots of wine, and lots of a peculiar beverage that was bright traffic light green and gave off strange dreamy swirls like a witch’s potion (later I found out that this was, in fact, absinthe)

4.) Having extravagant parties where you listened to jazzy old records, made recordings of your guests improvising their own fairy tales and ghost stories, and then mixing it up with torrid love affairs held in closets while everyone else danced

5.) Writing, on occasion, penning a masterpiece when it came to you

That year, after a long struggle with cancer, my father died, and my vivid imagination evaporated. I lost all interest in the wonderful world of writing that I’d imagined. I felt like there was no point to writing, at all, because the depression over my father’s death had robbed me of the ability to easily churn out stories, poems, and essays. My grade seven writing teacher noticed, and gave me a somewhat silly but memorable piece of advice at my protestations that I’d write “when the ideas came to me”. “Leah Jane,” she said, looking as sternly as a kindly old hippie sailor cum teacher could manage, “saying ‘you’ll write when the ideas come to you’ is like saying ‘when Nolan Ryan throws the right pitch, I’ll hit home runs for the Yankees’. It doesn’t work that way. You have to write, every day, no matter how you feel or what ideas you have. That’s how you make the ideas come to you.”

I’m not even a baseball fan, but the simile must have worked, because I can still remember it, a dozen years later.And it became relevant to my life again because of my relationship to writing as a form of healing trauma, which started after my father died and continues as I try to work through the manifold traumas that have shaped and impacted my life, and my relationship to the literary world. I’m meeting one of my favourite authors, Thomas King, next week, and one of the themes in his literary work is his use of humour through writing as a trauma healing force. Reading his work, in particular, The Truth About Stories, helped me create new ways of imagining writing, not as an escape into a glamorous fantasy world, but a means of grounding myself.

Grade seven me would probably be disappointed at the lack of parties with absinthe and scandal that have made up my life in writing, but I’m satisfied with how it’s developing.

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