Yesterday, someone commented that I had paid my figurative creative writing dues. And yes I have. Oh have I.
Twenty years ago, I started writing creatively while living in Houston. I hadn't written for years and had just graduated from USC Law and I was working as a corporate litigator at the largest law firm in Texas. Late night, staring out the window of a Houston skyscraper, I would write poems. They would pour out of me. It was the first time I realized that I had a writer inside of me, one that was bursting to get out.
In Texas, that writing voice was compelled by the loneliness and despair I felt in a new place by myself and an unfulfilling job. That's not to say I regret Texas or working at the big firm because I don't. The job was a huge opportunity, one that I'll always be grateful for, and I made friends in Texas that I'll have for life.
Later, in San Francisco, with my husband who was in dental school, I kept writing. I didn't write as much because I was working long hours at yet another law firm, and when I wasn't working, I was having the time of my life. Adrian and I spent weekends at Golden Gate Park and exploring the city and the wine country areas of Napa and Sonoma. We started looking for a house to buy, the market was extremely low, and then boom, my dad died.
It was the defining moment of my life. I totally just dropped everything and moved back home. I quit my San Francisco law firm job and moved to Colton to sleep on my twin sister's couch. I had already interviewed and accepted yet another law firm position. This one in Riverside. Yet, I knew the day I started that it wasn't for me. I still felt like an outsider.
Flash forward to two years later. I'm desperately unhappy. I dread going into work and often leave early to write at the Starbucks down the street. My husband, who has graduated dental school by then and is studying for his board exams, catches me there one day. He knows I'm unhappy. But we just bought a big house.
So I apply to a workshop called VONA and it changes my life. I find my writing voice, and myself. Soon, I'm interviewing for deputy public defender positions and after interviewing in Riverside, Orange County and San Bernardino, I'm hired in Riverside. It feels like I'm finally home. It is one of the best decisions I've ever made.
I keep on writing. I'm working on a memoir about my childhood and the stories come out free standing, one at a time, for over a decade. I know there's something there. I go to Macondo. People love the energy and voice. A publisher likes it too but suggests I rewrite it as fiction.
Finally, I find Los Nietos, and this press likes my memoir as it is and suggests I lengthen it to add more chapters from a high school perspective. Those chapters and the editing and collating takes two years. I finish the final story in a creative writing online MFA program at the University of New Orleans. At the last minute, I add in my poetry (some of the same poetry about my dad's death that I wrote at the Starbucks in Ontario that Adrian caught me at all those years ago). Covid has happened and I've started a podcast and written a hybrid chapbook about public defense and punk rock. My memoir becomes a kind of prequel. But it all makes sense. It all makes so much sense.
So yes my dues are paid and I'm marketing the hell outta both my books. For years, and years, I prayed to the universe to give me this, so I'm relishing it. Life gives you a chance at finding your true purpose and you have to grab it when it comes, lest it slip away. And for me, this writer thing, it's here to stay.