Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a writer. I wrote plays, poems, stories, and even a newsletter for my family, which I subjected them to every Sunday night at the dinner table during the year I was nine.
It seemed a miracle to me that color, excitement and action could bloom out of black lines on white paper. I still remember the Christmas when I was nine or ten and given Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I fell in love with its heroine, Jo March. She, too, wanted to be a writer, and her “scribbling” meant more to her than anything else. She wasn’t one of those namby-pamby, retiring, “good” girls – no, she was exciting, bold, tumultuous, a passionate rebel who had problems with anger and who rebelled against female restrictions. I strongly identified with her.
Jo March was my first author mentor. I read and re-read Little Women until the pages came out of the spine and I could recite whole chapters by heart. Jo March was my touchstone. She was how a writer was.
I was savagely disappointed when I first read Little Men, the sequel to Little Women. It told the story of an adult Jo, who had settled down to become a wife and mother, leaving her writing dreams behind. All the focus in the book went to her boys, leaving Jo relegated to the sidelines, supporting and comforting. What was even worse was that she seemed happy with her diminished role. “How could she?” I thought.
I was somewhat relieved when I read the third book about the March family, Jo’s Boys. Here I learned that Jo had retrieved her writing dreams and become a successful writer in middle age. “Better late than never,” I thought, although to my eleven-year-old mind, it seemed like a long time to wait.
Today I am struck by how my life has paralleled that of Jo March. I too showed early promise and wrote from heart-stopping passions so deep I knew I would always keep writing. But I grew up and married, had children, got a job, and left my writing dreams to molder while I made a living and focused on my kids. Just like she did.
But today! Today I, too, am middle-aged, but my writing dreams are still young and vibrant. I’ve written six books, and I help others write their books. I make my living scribbling.
Just like Jo.