Friday, February 6, 2009

what does a writer write about?

I have been thinking a lot recently about writing. About building a freelance writing career so that a few years down the road I can maybe quit the day job, or at least quit the corporate world. I have hunted down my old clips, researched freelance job sites, registered for a domain name, and set up an appointment to design my business cards. I have read books, and made a list of my contacts. So, I am well on my way.

Now the scary stuff begins. What on earth am I going to write about? Eventually, if all goes as planned, prospective clients will contact me with their writing needs already defined. But for now, it is all up to me. I need to write specs for articles, and query letters that are insightful, funny, and topical, that will catch the eye of an editor. Topics are what I need....

hmmmm. I could write about the world of senior housing and health care. Certainly that is an arena I know a lot about. I remember those first days as a new admissions director, helping families move mom or dad into the nursing home.
I could tell that Pam, the daughter, was holding back tears as she blindly signed her name on the line I was pointing to. She had that look we all get when we are trying not to cry. She looked up at the ceiling, as though searching for answers, willing her eyes to dry. She cleared her throat and nodded her answers, not trusting her voice to not belie her state of mind. I had spent a long time going over this paperwork, explaining exactly what she was signing and what it meant for her father and herself. I was proud of myself for getting all the terminology right, for explaining this often complicated process so well that she had no questions. Look how eager she was to sign her name! It wasn't until much later that I came to understand that it wasn't my new found expertise that prompted Pam to not ask any questions. It was shock. sadness. loss. The entire process of moving a parent into a nursing home is not an easy one. The realization that a change must be made, the research and touring and selecting of a home. The prayers that the right decision has been made. The discussion with your parent. Moving day. So who was I to assume that I had done my job so well that this woman had no questions? It wasn't my expertise moving that process along. It was her desire to be anywhere but that small office in that nursing home. And when I finally understood that, well, that is when I truly became the expert.
I could write about the day I met my son...
We met our son not in the delivery room of a hospital, but in the waiting room of the Guangzhou Child Welfare Adoption Center. We had arrived over an hour before, anxious to be new parents, apprehensive about the process ahead of us, very little of which had actually been explained in a way we had a chance of understanding. How would our little boy become ours? Would we have to wait to hold him? Was there a formal process? What if he cried when I held him? What if he reached out to his caregiver? Would we be judged?
Our journey to Matthew had not been a typical pregnancy. I have heard the process referred to as a "paper pregnancy". In some ways, it felt like a typical pregnancy. We shopped and planned and worried and read baby books. We decorated the nursery and made a list of baby names. Instead of sonogram pictures we shared photos of a 12 month old beautiful baby boy with big brown eyes. Instead of packing the bag for the hospital we packed our bags for China. Instead of attending birthing classes we attended required adoption classes. I have always felt my labor lasted much longer than the usual kind.
But here, after all this waiting, after all the paperwork and inspections and intrusions into our personal lives, here, toddling down the hall holding the hand of a tall, thin Asian man was a tiny little boy with a shaved head. He was wearing blue overall shorts and little blue sandals. The odd pair walked slowly through he door and right past us to an office. My boy! Where is he going? Hey! Come back here! I feel my arms reach out, automatically- they know what to do. They have been waiting for years to hold this precious baby.
So, wish me luck as I compile my clips and write my query letters. Change is always a little scary, isn't it?

No comments:

Post a Comment