When I left high school, I’ve wanted a creative life that allowed me to do some good in the world. I dreamed of working with Jimmy Doolittle, the doctor who did generous work in Cambodia. Or serving on the Hope Ship, a floating hospital. So I went to nursing school and from the outside, it looked like I had landed right side up on the doing good thing. Funny, though, it didn’t feel good. My first job after nursing school was fraught with fear over my inexperience. I worked in a small hospital in Maine, where the staff politics had me cowering much of the time and blind to whatever good I did. I left that job to become an Air Force nurse. More fear and isolation, but now these ugly emotions wore insignia and no one cared about my feelings. All that mattered was that I report for duty on time, wear a clean uniform, keep my hair off my collar, and identify the right cleaning procedure for the med room.
Where, in all of this, was creativity? Buried, hidden, starving. That re-emerged when I went back to college and finally ended up with an MA in English Lit and an MFA in Creative Writing. Whew! What a relief. Yes, I went back to work as a nurse, certified in adult mental health, and finally was mature enough to see the good that I could do. For eighteen years I combined creative writing and nursing. It all fit. Then came retirement and full-time writing. But there are days when I long for a creative life that also does good in the world. I want to create order in a disorderly world, compassion in the face of hate and connection instead of the isolations of class, race, and status.
Pardon my long, personal confessional crap here, but it’s important to say that even when writing seems insular and vain, I create characters who live through me, wrestle with problems that have impact in the world, discover skills I never knew I had. Writing fiction and poetry almost completes me, though no one is ever, I believe, complete. When the world ignores me, my work enfolds me, gives me a hug that says I matter. What better reason to write than this?