My dear friend Amy has just been here, and we've been chatting over coffee as we often do, sitting on the two big chairs in the living room with our legs curled under us like teenagers. In one of those brief moments of silence that fall in even the liveliest of conversations, Amy raised her eyes over the rim of the oversized coffee mug she likes best to drink from, and gazed at me a bit hesitantly.
"Guess what I've been doing?" she said.
"What?" I asked, interested in the prospect of a new activity.
"Writing," she answered proudly.
"Writing?" I asked, puzzled. "You mean, like books?"
"Well, no, not books exactly - not yet, anyway," she fluttered. "I've been writing a journal, and also some - well, some poetry."
"Geez! That's great!" I blurted out excitedly. "When can I read it?"
"Oh, God, I couldn't let you read it!" she exclaimed in a horrified voice.
"Well, what's the point of writing it if you're not going to let people read it?"
Amy snorted rather derisively. "I knew you'd take that attitude," she said. "Can't I just do it because I like it, and it makes me feel better?"
"Well, sure, I guess," I answered, still puzzled. I thought that all writers were just show offs, and wanted people to pour over every word they wrote.
"You see, Jenna," she said, taking the tone of voice you would with a stubborn eight year old,
"some of us find using the written word a great way to work out our feelings about ourselves and our lives. It isn't just about being published."
"Sure, I get that," I said. "But wouldn't it be great to actually write stuff that other people read and find meaningful for their lives? I mean, if what you're writing about is important to you, it stands to reason that other people might find it important to them as well."
Amy nibbled on her chocolate cookie. I could see her thinking over what I'd said.
"Well, I suppose you have a point," she conceded. "But, I really never thought about writing seriously - you know, it's just a hobby." She chewed away thoughtfully, then stopped to let the chocolate chips melt slowly in her mouth. "Mmmm, " she murmured, "these are always so good. I love how you make my favorite cookies every time I come over."
"Of course, because I know you love them," I said. "What if I said, 'oh, I'm really only interested in baking for myself, no one would want to eat my cookies anyway."
"What! That's nuts! Everyone loves your chocolate chippers!"
"Yeah, and maybe everyone would love your writing and your poetry, too," I said, nudging her with my smile. "Didya ever think of that?"
Amy grinned ruefully at me, and wrinkled her nose. "Okay, I get it," she said. "But I'm not nearly as good a writer as you are a baker - "
"STOP!" I shouted, holding my hand in front her, palm out, like a crossing guard. "There is no self deprecation allowed in the fine arts - either writing or baking! You'll never know how good you are unless you keep writing and put yourself out there for others to read."
I could see the wheels of her head turning. "Maybe I should take a class," she mused. "Or look for a writer's group."
"I've heard it's really easy to set up a blog - you know, a personal website kind of thing, where you can post your entries online. I bet there are lots of online groups you could join. That way, you could even remain anonymous, if you wanted to."
Grinning now from ear to ear, Amy grabbed another cookie and jumped up out of her seat.
"You are so smart, Jenna!" she shouted. "I'm going home right now and look into that!"
Within seconds the screen door slammed behind her, and her long legs were flying down the street to her house.
"Hmm," I sighed, taking the last cookie for myself as I gathered up the cups and napkins. "Guess there's nothing left for me to do but some more baking!"
in response to exercise one of Pen on Fire, Barbara DeMarco's book on "igniting the writer within"