Tuesday, July 23, 2013

You Aren't One Person, Anyway (Writing IS Reinvention)

by Samantha Wilde

Once upon a time, I had an incredible career as a ballerina. But then, the teachers at my dance school measured my bones and decided I simply did not have the genetic connective tissue to hit the big time. I was thirteen.

Once upon a time, I worked at factory in Indiana pressing RV decals onto their backings. Except I kept coming in late for my five a.m. shift and they fired me. I was nineteen.

In the middle, I worked as a chamber maid, a babysitter, a cashier at the pharmacy, at a chocolate store, at a bookstore, at a music store, for a cleaning company, as a personal assistant to an elderly professor, in end-of-life care, at a flower farm, as as staff writer for a newspaper, as an ad exec for a newspaper, (as a babysitter again, as a cleaner, again), as a hostess at Chi Chi's, at a florist, as a nanny, for a Jewish newspaper, as an exotic dancer (just kidding. I wanted to see if you were still reading).

But I wrote my first book at age six and never stopped. I wrote books through each of my jobs, I kept writing through seminary and my yoga training, writing what I learned, what I cared about, what I didn't understand, my best ideas, my worst ideas.

In my unpublished life, I am a poet and a short story writer, a memoirist as well as a novelist. I'm an incredible essayist. And I can even craft a sexy Zen koan.

How does anyone do just one thing? Or write one thing? I have so many hats, my family chipped in and bought me a few more heads so I wouldn't have to keep changing them. When my husband and I argue, he hopes I'm wearing the minister hat (she's super loving and patient and if you get mad at you, she'll say, "Let's pray about this!). When my kids mess up, they hope I'm wearing my yoga teacher hat. "Breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow." They like that last one best.
I ALWAYS wanted to be a mother.

Sometimes I think I should have been a stand-up comedian. And when I don't feel that way, I'm absolutely convinced I ought to have become a nun (Episcopal until I became Buddhist). I would so long to join the Amish and spend my life in anonymity, farming, birthing children and wearing an apron. But then I'd also like to be the world's most famous liberal TV evangelist. If I could sing, I'd be a folk singer. If I was rich, I'd adopt a hundred children.If I was famous, I'd have my own talk show.

For the record, I've never wanted to be a hairdresser. (But see, I never said, I'm every woman.)

Choosing to become a minister and choosing to become a yoga teacher and choosing to become a full-time at-home mother and choosing to become the writer of humorous women's fiction drew me into a constant and fluid dance of reinvention. In yoga, every breath is a new beginning! In ministry, you get to be born again! You can;t find anything more reinvented than that. As a mother, every morning with my children presents a chance to try anew, with fresh ideas I learned about while reading another parenting book at night. As a humorous women's fiction writer...

Well, here is the smallest box I live in. Why do writers have to change names to become new again? Our we so attached to our novelists that we don't recognize how nobody is only one person, anyway? Every writer I know, without exception, can write in several genres, has secret books in them different than their working "voice." The scandal is not the drive and desire to reinvent (or the necessity), but the surprise it generates from others.

One of the best things about writing is the infinity of directions any sentence can take you, how with a word, the plot changes. Writing is reinvention. Sometimes we reinvent ourselves when we write. Sometimes we reinvent our pasts. Sometimes we reinvent an old story. Sometimes we reinvent an old idea.

Sometimes, I sit at my computer with that wanting to write like a song on my lips and it doesn't matter one bit what comes out. It's the writing that urges me on. When I slip into it, I have a hundred careers and I am all those people--and it is freeing to at once be me and not me. Well, I'm not one person, anyway. Are you?

You really get reinvented when you let your four year old choose your outfit!
Samantha Wilde is the author of I'll Take What She Has and This Little Mommy Stayed Home. She is an ordained minister and a yoga teacher, and the at-home mother of three young children. She really wants you to like her--or one version of her anyhow. You can also check out her Wilde Mama blog or follow her on Twitter: @whatshehas.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Oh, Samantha, I just love this post! And I love the pics you put in.

    I'm not just one person, either! I like how you mention the things you do in your unpublished life. I haven't written solely for myself in ages. I think it may be time to do something about that.

    1. I think we're kindred spirits! Writing solely for yourself...what a novel idea!

  3. You are so funny! Loved this post.

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