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The Writing Life
Why I Write: The Awful Truth
by Sandy Tritt

I came out of the closet the day I attended my first prose workshop. I distributed copies of my manuscript to my fellow transgressors, hung my head, and whispered my admission: "My name is Sandy. I am a... writer." The members of this group understood what only those who have experienced such addictions can understand: Writing is not a job. It's not a hobby. It's a drive, as basic as eating and sleeping and drinking, as necessary as oxygen. It is something that is in me and must be released.

I have not always been ashamed of my passion. As a pre-teen, I eagerly told anyone who'd listen that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

"She'll outgrow it," my mother assured my father.

"Don't you mean a teacher?" my teacher asked.

"There are enough books already," the librarian said.

But I went on to college and majored in English Literature. I loved it. My counselor hated it. "You are so good in math. You need to think about the future." I didn't listen. "You can't pay the rent by writing." I didn't care. "You need a real job." I didn't need anything except a pen and a pad of paper. "Unless you want to depend on a man ... " And he had me. Those were fighting words in 1975. I Am Woman. I can do anything. Listen to me roar.

I became a programmer. I learned to manipulate numbers to propagate whatever pretension was required: production is on schedule, customers are happy, the business is solvent. I learned to use fact to tell lies. But at night, my compulsion surfaced. I used liesmade-up stories about made-up people with made-up problemsto unearth the Truth. I wrote late into the night, the pen my secret lover, the paper my confidante. For ten years I satisfied my cravings with nocturnal fixes. Then, busy having babies and feeding babies and cleaning babies, my binders went to the attic and my pen went dry. I tried to compensate. I smoked. I drank. I binged on chocolate. But nothing satisfied that carnal craving.

One dayand I don't remember which day or what inspired itI retrieved those dusty three-ring binders and read the words I'd written years before. My heart beat faster. Sweat dotted my forehead. I couldn't stop. I read for days, my excitement growing. I spent weeks typing, months revising. I endured the rejection, the rewrites, the criticism. I embraced the joy, the pain, the fear. I submitted to my passion, finally admitting that awful truth: I still want to be a writer when I grow up.

1994 Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved.

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