I believe I was meant to be a writer. And by that, I don’t mean my career choice was mapped out by the stars (but who knows?), I mean that when I look back on my life and the choices I made, it seems laughable that it took me until the ripe old age of 37 to figure out writing was my calling, since the signs were there all along.
Sure, figuring out I was a writer felt like an epiphany at the time. But once I started to look back on my past, it was as if I’d left a trail of ridiculously obvious breadcrumbs all leading to one inevitable conclusion.
So, in order to save you years of struggle, I offer this:
Hilary’s Four Simple Clues for Finding Your True Calling. (Trademark pending)
Clue #1: Whom do you most admire?
I’m not talking about your childhood heroes, or we’d all be working for NASA right now, or have spent our pre-teen years being verbally abused by some middle-aged Slavic man in hopes of winning a gold medal for our killer “floor routine.” I’m talking about the people you truly admire, after you grew out of your “I want to be a millionaire” phase and got into your teens. Maybe you’ve always looked up to surgeons, or maybe you really respect your friend who works for a non-profit, or your local policemen. For me, the people I’ve most admired have always, unequivocally been writers. Even the film directors I like best are almost always writer-directors. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It makes total sense that the thing we (secretly or publicly) hope to achieve is the thing we most esteem.
Clue #2: What were your skills and interests as a child? What were your favorite classes in school?
I spoke at nine months. I memorized Madeline when I was two. I learned to read before kindergarten. I’ve always had a great vocabulary. I loved to read as a child. In high school, I always liked English class best. I wrote poetry. Lots of bad poetry. I was the Editor in Chief of my high school literary magazine. I spearheaded a political campaign and smooth-talked my way into the governor’s office when I was sixteen. In college, with the exception of a few filmmaking classes (most of them theory classes, as opposed to production) my favorite classes (and the ones I excelled at) were: “Creative Writing,” “Suicide in Literature,” Derek Walcott’s “Playwriting” (which was technically only for graduate students, but I audited it), “Screenwriting,” and “Dramaturgy.” Hmmm. Perhaps if my life was a work of literature I would have picked up on this subtle theme.
Clue #3: When you were first deciding what to do with your life/ starting your career, what were your favorite things to do? Your favorite places to go?
For me, my favorite way to spend a college afternoon was going to the Trident Booksellers & Café on Newbury Street (by myself) and perusing books and magazines while drinking herbal tea and eating a veggie roll-up. Might I have been craving the solitary life of a writer, longing to be surrounded by the written word and a good selection of hot beverages?
Here is a photo of my current tea drawer. You be the judge.
In addition to my love of the Trident, I also enjoyed:
- Going to poetry readings
- Going to book readings and hearing authors speak
- Going to indie films
- Living life with a devil-may-case attitude because even if my recklessness caused my life to go to hell on occasion, it usually made for a good story.
- Writing poetry
- Writing short stories
- Going to the John F. Kennedy Library, not to see the JFK stuff, but to visit the collection of Hemingway’s letters
- Participating in (and occasionally winning) poetry slams at the Cantab Lounge
- Making a poetry film with poet Sharon Olds
- Watching Saturday Night Live and complaining that I could write funnier sketches (but never actually doing it)
- Writing and directing a feature film (which was much better written than it was directed)
Clue #4: What’s your personality?
I am someone who likes to make people laugh. I tell a good story. I enjoy being the center of attention but I also like (and crave) my alone time. I am kind, empathetic, overly analytical, silly, hard-working, neurotic, weird, fun, and free-spirited.
If you are like me, you might look at my personal list of clues and wonder how I lived my life for so long completely blind to the writing (oh, I like puns, too) on the wall. But alas, hindsight is 20/20 and all of the things I did prior to becoming a quote-unquote writer—many of which actually included writing—lead me to where I am today.
So if you are looking to find your true calling, take solace in the fact that there is no “timeline” to your journey, just as there is no “wrong turn” you can make. And just because I call myself a writer does not exclude all of the many other wonderful things I also am, such as: mother, wife, friend, film director, editor, yogini, blogger, cook, hiker, reader, and so many more.