By Char Greenwood
from Los Angeles,CA
As far back as I can remember, writing has been my "thing." It's been my therapy and number one outlet for dealing with a long list of everyday stressors. Add to that list, the countless social injustices that cause lumps to come up into your throat and tears of helplessness to swell up in your eyes. Growing up and later raising a family in some of the more "colorful" L.A. neighborhoods has often made that list quite interesting for me. In a crime infested environment, if I haven't already seen it all, I probably know of someone who has. When things start getting too heavy to deal with, and I feel powerless to do anything about the state of affairs (mine or the world's), that's when I need to exercise my voice. Typically, that's the time I start to write.
I currently reside in a section of South Central Los Angeles that is affectionately known as "the Jungle". The name alone conjures up all sorts of scary images as to what the people and activities here must be like. While many residents in the area would argue that things around here are not as bad as some would like to believe, no one can deny that the neighborhoods show distinct signs of neglect and economical hardship. When I look around at the number of rundown, shutdown, or non-thriving businesses, it's depressing. It's even more depressing to see the people who are lost to the streets and seem to resemble the unproductive establishments that surround them. There is so much potential for growth but it is falling by the wayside. I feel especially bad because it reminds me of my own stunted potential that I never seem to quite measure up to. It's like running an obstacle course where each hurdle gets higher and higher.
That brings me to my writing career that has stopped and been jump started more times than the raggedy little Pinto I used to drive back in the seventies. When the practicalities of life call, I always end up putting the writing on a back burner, where it stays until nothing else is demanding my attention. By that time, I've come to believe just a little bit less in my own writing ability. Needless to say, that makes the whole process of "charging" myself up to write more difficult. As if that weren't bad enough, the last time I tried to turn some serious attention in the direction of my writing, something happened.
In the late summer of 2002 I began experiencing all the classic symtoms of Carpal Tunnel in my right wrist. It was found to be work related, so my job working for the Department of Children & Family Services soon took a back burner, right along side my writing career.
I suffered a great deal of pain for several months, and literally had to stay off the computer, as well as refrain from writing with a pen or pencil. That really bothered me because it meant no journaling, something that I did on a daily basis for sanity sake. I realized that this time I was physically unable to give my writing the periodic charge it needed, no matter how much creative juice was still flowing. I sunk into a deep depression and reflected on my short lived career.
It all technically began In 1992. I won a hundred dollar prize for a speech I wrote and delivered to an auditorium full of college students. It was about Martin Luther King, and the theme "Keeping the Dream Alive". Coming in second place in that contest was all the confirmation I needed to spur me on in my newfound ambition - to become a successful writer. I knew it might be difficult, but I wasn't deterred. I'd been jumping hurdles all my life.
As the years came and went, I slowly but surely began to develop as a writer, in spite of the fact that the "real" world (You know the one, where you have to raise kids, pay bills, and other stuff like that) kept getting in my way.
Somehow I managed to return to school and continue pursuing my Journalism degree. While my favorite subject to write about has always been children, I've covered a variety of topics in the thirteen years I've been freelancing, including many on social issues.
Although it was in 1992 when I first decided I wanted to "become" a writer, it wasn't until 1996 when I realized that "I am" a writer. I needed to believe it myself before I could expect anyone else to believe. I have Mr. Ralph Keyes, and his book "The Courage to Write" (copyright 1995) to thank for that realization.
I'll never forget the joy I felt when I started reading this outstanding book that every writer should have in their library. Of course I had read other trade publications on the craft of good writing, besides the many text books we used in college. It was the way Keyes talked about the various fears that are typical to all writers, that convinced me that doubts about my abilities were a normal thing. Somehow, knowing that other writers were experiencing the same feelings, and overcoming similar obstacles, gave me the courage to not give up. Keyes became my hero. “The Courage to Write” became my Bible.
While the countless obstacles that have had a way of blocking my path continue to try and discourage me, once again, I'm determined to find my writing niche and settle into it. Rather than allow the injury which forced me to leave my job nearly three years ago continue to rob me, I've found a way to regain my power. Enter the "Dragon".
"Dragon Speaking Voice Activated Software" to be specific. It enables the user to dictate into a microphone while it types what is being said. This incredible software has allowed me to have hope again. Though I'm constantly working with the "Dragon" to improve transcription quality, before it's all over with, this program will be typing my manuscripts and submissions faster than I ever could.
I still experience pain and discomfort from the Carpal Tunnel, but it's more managable now, and I try to refrain from things that I know will trigger the pain.
Everyday I count my blessings and try to reflect on what is good in my life, in spite of where I live and what's going on around me. And as for my writing "success", I've decided that to be able to successfully convey what you want to say, and have an audience to hear it, is success enough. (For now anyway)