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when I became a writer

golden latte, Sayulita, Mexico

I'll always remember: This is the golden latte I was sipping and gripping when someone asked if I was a writer. I had a notebook and a pen-- actually, two notebooks and two pens. The Clairefontaine notebook takes the gel pen, the tiny Moleskine notebook takes a rollerball.

I was filling pages in the large Clairefontaine because it's my journal and I was in Sayulita and there was so much to reflect on-- the way life moved here, the spill of the flowers on balconies, the dogs drifting about. And also, I had this wonderful Camus, Lyrical and Critical Essays, which is this treasure of a book whose title hides the wonder within. I had to take notes on Camus.

I only had a week to write, really write the way I wanted to, and really it was less than that because there was walking, eating, and sitting with the ocean that had to be done, too.

So I filled pages with urgency. And I turned to the Moleskine and drafted poems, since that's the point of life.

Then the waiter who brought me the coffee stopped next to the table. "Are you a writer?" he asked, and he actually gestured at the notebook, which is an action I imagine writers would write for him but that I didn't think people in real life would do, until he gracefully did it.

I actually didn't know what to say. Out loud, that is. In my head, I said, "I would like to be a writer. I write things, so maybe I am a writer. I practice the craft of writing, and I will always be a student of the craft, no matter how many or how few people see various pieces. I want to make art with writing, I want to honor my duty to reflect the world I'm living in the way Nina Simone said artists must."

All this, and so it was a surprise to both you and me that I immediately answered out loud,"Yes."

I thought about that. About the validation of being seen by another person as a writer. And then also about the intrinsic power of what we call ourselves before anyone else lays claim on a label for us. Both shape my identity. There's no way I can get around either influence, internal or external. And because I want to live in the world, and exult in it, I don't want to get around internal and external influences. Rather, I want to see them as they are, notice what they can do, and describe myself with as much integrity as possible so that what I describe resonates with someone, or two, or a few outside me.

That's a good life, a life of a writer I'd like to be, and maybe was that day, and maybe can be.

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