I hesitate to call it “discovering” my passion, since I have always loved to write. When my sister and I used to have sleepovers at my aunt’s house, she gave us a marker and pencil set and two notebooks. Blank pages – those lacking lines – are usually used for drawing, and I had a pretty good collection of pictures. But in amongst the images was a story about a caterpillar that I had written in kindergarten. I have been writing stories since I knew how to write.
My mom used to force me to write journals, particularly when we traveled. I have a fantastic pocket-sized book full of ranting about my sister when we were in China. Opening the book today, the scent of the pages brings back my feelings of vexation. At fourteen, I finally started journaling for myself, using the technique of “freewriting,” which I hated when it was introduced to me in a middle school English class. English classes, of course, were always my strength, and I eventually became an English major. There was nothing else I wanted to spend that much time on, and nothing else I was as good at. Going through my closet the other day, I discovered several issues of my high school newspaper, and more articles than I realized I’d written. My sophomore semester on the editing team of the literary magazine was one of the best I can remember – and my introduction to creative writing workshops.
Often through my life, I’ve wished I’d known what I wanted to be when I grew up. I envied my father, who got an undergraduate degree in architecture, a graduate degree in architecture, and then became, yes, an architect. I think about all the things I might have done, had I known. Yet I can look back and see that I have always been a writer.
So, rather than saying I’ve “discovered” my passion, I will call it “naming” my passion. There is, however, a lot to be said for naming one’s passion. It gave me a path to follow, steps to take. I connected with a former English teacher of my sister’s who became my writing mentor. I took creative writing courses, and developed writing groups out of them. I decided to apply for graduate school, for a Creative Writing MFA, and I then applied, to 11 schools – writing the personal statement is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I got not one but two internships, at CASA Magazine and Santa Barbara Magazine . I began reading short stories in The New Yorker , I read novels on writing (John Gardner, Stephen King), I became addicted to the “Visual Bookshelf” app on Facebook. And – I wrote.