In high school and college, my guitar and a small notebook came with me everywhere. I played and sang at coffee shops and even the occasional bar. I wrote songs, and even recorded a demo CD with three originals. I gave a few copies to my friends, and the owner of the recording studio sent it to his “contacts” in Nashville… and then it suddenly became embarrassing. I realized first that I didn’t actually want to be a recording artist, and then that it wasn’t likely to happen even if it was my true passion. I stopped playing and writing songs. There was no point.
I didn’t really even miss it. My life became full of other things- theatre, then teaching, dating and marrying my husband, then graduate school… I was busy, and happy in my new marriage and career. The hole that playing music left in my life was negligible; it rarely made itself known. Writing felt similarly. I felt that what I wrote with my students and for grad school was enough. I didn’t see the point in writing “just for me”.
The Northern Virginia Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute has not only inspired me to pick up my pens and notebook again, but I also dusted off my guitar that has been sitting under my bed for years now. I took it to get new strings last Friday, and have played it every day since! I’ve also rediscovered the fun of writing fiction. It’s amazing how quickly these old hobbies have taken root. It doesn’t matter if I’m never going to be a published author, or play guitar in public ever again. It feels natural to both write and play now, even if I’m only doing them for my own enjoyment.
As I type this post,I can feel the sting of raw fingertips hitting the keyboard, telling me that my guitar callouses are coming back. Soon they won’t hurt anymore. On my right hand, the first knuckle of my ring finger has developed a rough lump of its own where my pens have been resting each day as I write morning pages and notes throughout the day. These familiar rough patches were once parts of me that I’m thrilled to feel returning. I hope I never lose them again, but I know that my hobbies will ebb and flow with the ups and downs of life. What’s important is that now, with the help and support of my colleagues in the NVWP, I have given myself permission to "write (and play) the crap" (our motto of the summer), just because I like it. Thank you!