Believing in the Writer in Me

Believing in the Writer in Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Believing in the Writer in Me

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
~William Wordsworth

There have been moments in my writing career when I felt like a real writer: When I sold my first story to a magazine, when I saw my writing in print for the first time, when I published my first book. All these moments made me feel like I was more than someone who believed he was a writer; they proved I was one. But none of them would have been possible if not for the moment when someone else showed me she believed I was a writer.

I was twelve years old when I decided that I was going to be a writer. Not simply someone who wrote in a diary or kept a journal or even someone who wrote stories and put them away in a desk drawer, never to see the light of day. I was going to be a professional writer, someone who wrote and published stories in books and magazines. My brother and I both had the same dream, and every night we’d sit and write stories of space travel, mystery, intrigue and adventure.

Being so young, we didn’t know anything about writing, or the rules of grammar, or about how to prepare a manuscript for submission. We did all of our writing with pencils and tablets, scribbling away at our literary masterpieces. After we wrote stories, we’d sit and read them to each other or to our sister and mom, hoping to get them, our first readers, excited about traveling across the cosmos in our latest science fiction story, or pursuing clues to find the culprit in our latest mystery.

We were smart enough to figure out that the place to publish our stories were the magazines that we loved to read. So we’d look up the mailing addresses of the various mystery, fantasy, and science fiction magazines. Then we’d take our handwritten pages, stuff them into an envelope, and send them off to the editors. Week after week, we’d rush to check the mail, hoping to find a letter from one of the editors telling us how much they loved our stories and that, of course, they wanted to publish them all. We dreamed of becoming overnight successes.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, week after week, we’d find our stories returned to us with a rejection letter. Usually it was a preprinted rejection form that gave us no clue as to what we were doing wrong. Sometimes we’d get a handwritten note telling us to send typewritten stories if we were serious about being writers. Since we couldn’t afford a typewriter, we simply ignored this advice and kept on writing and sending out our stories. The rejections just kept coming.

Our mom knew that we wanted to be writers. She also knew we were just kids, and that we had a long way to go before we’d ever be good enough to be professional. And she knew that we’d never get anywhere sending out stories written in pencil or pen on paper. She’d read one rejection we got that told us to wait until we grew up to follow our dreams. She could sense we were losing faith in ourselves.

Back then we had no money to spare on something like a typewriter. My mom was barely making ends meet for us. She worked hard to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. My brother and I decided we might just have to put our dreams aside and face the realities of life. There’d be time to dream about being writers some other day.

But my mom knew we were serious about that dream, and she could see the potential in our work when perhaps no one else in the world could. She had always told us to go after our dreams and not give up on them. She had watched us writing week after week. She had sat and listened to our stories. There must have been some glimmer of hope there for her to do what she did.

One day my mom came home carrying something in her hand. It looked like a miniature metal suitcase. She smiled when she set it on the table and snapped open the silver locks on either side. The top of the thing slid upward in her hand, and when she lifted it off, we stood there looking at a small, portable typewriter. The keys shone white and silver. I reached out and pushed down on the S key. The corresponding key flew up from the carriage and thwacked against the roller. It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.

Our mom explained that she hadn’t bought the typewriter. There was no way we could afford an extravagance like that. What she had done was found a place that rented typewriters, and then asked them for the cheapest portable manual typewriter they had. The little gray and white model that sat before us cost her ten dollars a month. I couldn’t believe what she had done for us. I stood there looking at my mom, a person who had always told me how much she believed in me, and realized she believed in my dream as much as I did—so much so that she would use the meager money she worked so hard to earn to make sure I had a chance to follow that dream.

That one act, along with the constant support and inspiration that she has always given me, is the thing that made me the writer I am today. Here was someone whose opinion I valued more than anyone else’s, and she gave me the means to make a go of it. My brother and I began typing up our stories and sending them out again. It took time, lots of time and experience, but now we both have the thrill of seeing our words in print in magazines and books. And it’s all thanks to my mom, who believed in my dreams with all her heart, and gave me the chance to write about it.

~John P. Buentello

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