When quarantine began, I joined a writing group. I wanted to regain focus, connect socially, and revisit an old dream. In university, literature classes felt like sacred space. Words flowed through my mind, painting pictures, sparking ideas, injecting oxygen. By sophomore year, I thought I would major in English Literature.
But when I expressed my wish, my mother wouldn’t speak to me for three days. She was the daughter of an immigrant laborer who had worked her whole career as a waitress.
When I was three years old, she said, “If I have to scrub floors on my hands and knees so you can go to college, I will do it. I don’t want you to live the kind of life I’ve had to live.”
She sacrificed to smooth my path to the middle class and felt sure I was throwing away my chance on fantasy.
I conceded that even successful writers that I met did not earn a steady living. I had no mentor to guide or encourage me. I couldn’t bear to oppose her. Even powerful dreams fall prey to self-doubt without a cheerleader.
And so, because I had a secondary interest in environmentalism, I majored in hazardous materials management. I spent twenty years in this field and had the satisfaction of performing useful work for good wages. I bought a home in the San Francisco Bay Area.
But I was never passionate about work.
After my children were born, I edged closer to creativity by quitting my career to teach dance. Then the pandemic struck, bringing with it a gift of time. The moment arrived to scrape the rust off an old vision.
I began by participating in “Write Along” sessions. This is where writers meet online at designated times to work on their projects. There is no discussion. It is about holding each other accountable to show up and put in the time on projects of one’s choice.
The results were transformational. I began by revising the manuscript of a book I had gradually written over decades – a book about my mother’s life. I sent it off for professional editing. I figured I would self-publish.
However, the editor suggested that the manuscript was good enough to be traditionally published.
So I joined another writing group whose members all had the goal of pitching manuscripts to literary agents and publishers. Through them, I learned how to participate in Twitter pitching events.
At the first event in which I took part, two small-press publishers responded with manuscript requests. Later, they responded with publishing offers. Recently, I responded to one, letting them know I wanted to move forward.
Early in life, I let the nays have it. I don’t regret it. My mother was a waitress, so I could be a professional, so my daughters can be anything they want to be.
But now it’s time to embark on my quest, commit to being the hero of my story, and say yes. I think my mother would be proud.
This essay was written in response to a 500 word Flash Lit challenge in the “To Live and Write Wherever You Are” Facebook writing group. The theme of the challenge was, “The Nays Have It.”