Originally posted June 23, 2009.
There is an opinion columnist whose articles I read religiously. I love her writing style; and even though I’m online, I feel like this woman is sitting with me. To me, her articles are the product of conversations she’s had and has chosen to share with me while we sit and have breakfast. (I’ve always had a good imagination.)
I am so enamored with her writing style that I recently picked up one of her books (What I Saw At The Revolution by Peggy Noonan) so that I can read her work on my own time. And when I came across this conversation with Dan Rather, I paused:
“…and the last day we went downstairs for coffee. He wanted to know what I wanted to be. I said short term I wanted to fill in when Cronkite’s writer was away –
– and long term I wasn’t so sure.
‘Do you want to be a producer?’
‘No, I don’t want to live in the Holiday Inn. I don’t even like to fly.’
‘Want to be on-air?’
‘No, I don’t really speak well on the air.’
He looked at his coffee.
‘I don’t really know what I want to do. I know I’m a writer…’”
That is where I paused. I have had similar conversations with lots of well-intentioned people. They want to help. And I want them to help me, but unlike Peggy Noonan, I falter because I have never been able to admit that I want to write. And simply put: I want to write. (If I’m shooting for the stars, at some point I’d like to write a book that means something to people. But that’s just a girl using her healthy imagination.)
So what’s the big deal, right? Why can’t I just tell people that I want to write? It’s not a confession that infringes pain or suffering on anyone. But I am afraid that if you ask what I want to do and I answer with that most authentic answer, you are going to scoff and say, “Yeah, and I’m going to win the lottery.”
I would recoil at your ridicule and move further away from even the idea of being a writer. Instead, I will embrace the idea of being an editor. Or maybe a teacher. Considering these options with great seriousness, I dilute my real desire and agree to settle for a job that would be more easily palatable for you who asks, “What do you want to do?”
I tell you teacher or editor so that I can avoid the possibility of skepticism. I lie to you and it steals the possibility of what could happen.
I have done this. Repeatedly, over three rounds of unemployment.