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  • Writer's pictureDelphia Simmons

My Writing Journey

I was in elementary school when my mother gave me my first diary for Christmas. I had a lot to write about but was too concerned about my sisters reading it to write the real stuff. I purchased my second diary with my allowance. It was one of those five-year diaries, with a lock and key. Now I could write the real stuff. Some things I would write in my own coded language because I would be in big trouble if my mother got wind of my use of adult words, among other things.

It seemed unfair that adulthood came with the benefit of using adult words and saying whatever one wanted. Adults didn't need diaries, and the only filters were on their cigarettes (another adult activity). Having a way to express things that I wasn't permitted to speak out loud allowed me to do what grownups seemed to do all the time. Writing in my diary was a necessary act of rebellion. I mean, some things just had to be said.

Reading had a different set of rules. My mother armed me and my five sisters with library cards and instructions to borrow any book(s) we wanted. I know now that there were restrictions, but I'm glad she didn’t mention them. I wandered the library with a sense of freedom, unrestricted, unaware of boundaries. I read Homer, Robert K. Massie, Carolyn Keene, Richard Wright, Lewis Carroll, and E.B. White before I reached my teens. It sounds cliché to say that reading took me places and made my world bigger, but it did. Reading was a favorite pastime and books were like friends.

I was in high school before I gave any thought or attention to the authors of my growing collection of friends. I began to feel gratitude for writers who wrote and published the words and stories that I read and enjoyed. With rare exception, writing in school, with all its didactics, hadn't inspired or even pointed to the kind of writing that I was reading. I concluded that writers must be different from the rest of us. They didn't choose writing, it chose them; it was bestowed on them. They were born that way. Why else would they do it and how else could they be so good at it?

"Eight million stories in the naked city…" The more books I read and the more life I lived, the more connections among experiences, story, narrative, writing, and writers became obvious. Everyone had a unique story, something that they could write about if they chose. All of the best stories were not found only in books. I had read somewhere that life imitates art and vice versa. I found that to be true.

Three years out of high school, I was two years married with a one-year-old. I had a lot to write about. Not long before I completed high school, firmly planted in church life, I made what seemed like a natural transition from diaries to the "devotional" notebooks on the market. I figured devotionals were diaries for Christians. There was usually a scripture passage on the front and sometimes on every page. By the time I entered official adulthood, I had stopped using adult language--among other things--and devotionals didn't have locks… the rebellion was over.

Over the next decade, the knowledge that I could talk to God and be heard had me verbally and mentally expressing the real stuff as I prayed or just talked to God like a Father. I didn't write as much. Anyway, devotionals seemed to come with an expectation that what was written in the pages would be more like “life as a bible study” than the real stuff.

I transitioned from devotionals to journals. Journal seemed broader, more expansive. A journal seemed to invite one to chronicle their journey. To write the real stuff. So I wrote, so I write.

I believe that each of us has something to say and a way to say it, a unique story, a narrative that adds to the whole. We are living, breathing stories. I write to be a catalyst for others to write like others have been for me. Because our collective stories could fill the world with understanding.

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