The other day at work we were in a meeting and we had to go around the room and say our name and title. My title, for the moment, is Junior Writer. And this was the first time in the almost 9 months that I’ve been working there that I actually said out loud “Lori Reiter, Junior Writer.” It sounded silly and actually got a laugh from the room, and after the meeting it turned into a conversation about how I should just change my name to “Lori Junior Reiter” to save time.
It was silly and made us laugh because who doesn’t love a good pun? (Seriously, if you don’t like puns, just go away.) But it also made me start to think about my career path. More specifically, why I chose to major in English and why I am putting myself through the struggle of finding a job related to words in some way. I could have chosen an easier path to more money and more security, but I didn’t. I chose, and am continuing to choose, the more unstable and creative path.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved words. I find language fascinating and I have always found it interesting how these random formations of lines and dots equate sounds that turn into meaning. It’s something that’s always been a part of me.
Also for as long as I can remember, people have teased me about my last name. Not in a mean-spirited way. Just in an obvious way. My last name sounds like “writer” and I read and write a lot. But why do I write so much? Why do I love making up stories, often not even on paper, just in my head? Nothing in the world thrills me more than getting a reaction (positive, hopefully) from someone who has read something I’ve written. Nothing scares me more either.
When my sisters, brother, and I were little, my dad used to tell us these bed time stories that he would make up off the top of his head. He would tell us scary stories when we had friends over for sleepovers. Stories that my best friend Diana sites as the reason why she still can’t watch scary movies to this day. From listening to his stories, I learned how to create something out of nothing. So I began creating epic stories and adventures that took place in card houses and Lego worlds for my Barbies and Hot Wheels and Littlest Pet Shop animals and whatever other toys I accumulated (or stole from my brother). Essentially, I learned how to write, before I even knew how to read.
And then I did learn how to read. I started with the Berenstain Bears. I continued with Judy Blume and The Babysitters Club. And then I read Harriet the Spy and my life changed. I’m not trying to be melodramatic. I’m dead serious. That book rocked my little 8 year old world. I read that book, and then I started to write and observe and write what I observed, just like Harriet. I started my first journal in 3rd grade. Since then, I believe there have been 14 in total. Not to mention all of the notebooks, and later, Word documents, filled with stories and the beginnings of stories and the ideas of stories (one day I should share these…my notebook of stories from 3rd grade is a treasure trove of brilliance). I have a written history of almost my entire life, from age 8 to 23. How many people can say the same thing?
Those journals aren’t about being profound or telling a story or impressing anyone. They are about me, my life and thoughts and feelings. They were never for anyone else. But, as we’ve all heard, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound? If a Lori fills notebook upon notebook with words, but no one reads them, can she call herself a writer? I don’t know.
Over the years, I have shared selected excerpts from these journals with certain people, but I have no intention of handing these over to anyone to read on their own. If Harriet the Spy taught me anything, it’s what happens when your peers read your uncensored thoughts, and I refuse to lose my Sport and Janie (don’t worry, guys, I’m not nearly as mean as Harriet…).
For as long as I can remember, writing has been a part of me. But it has always been private. Why? Because I’m scared of opening myself up. Of course there have been times where I’ve shared what I’ve written. I wrote for my school paper in high school. I had a Blurty in middle school and a Xanga in early high school (oh yes, I went there). I’ve shared various stories and journal entries with friends. I even published an article on Thought Catalog, and soon I’m going to start writing for my friend’s TV review website, At a Glanz TV (whaddup, shameless self-promotion). And now I even have a job that pays me to write and edit. But I’ve always been a little bit removed from all of that. Everything I’ve shared has been very calculated. I share what I want and what I feel fits into the image of myself I want others to see. Is that who I am? Yes, of course it is, but only partly. Because there is so much more rushing around in my head. And recently I’ve been feeling the urge to let it out.
I’ve been saying for over a year now that I want to start a blog (just ask the aforementioned best friend Diana…she probably wants to smack me with how much I talked about it and didn’t act on it). It’s not so much because I have this delusional idea that it will become some big thing, but because I need an outlet.
I can’t speak for the others, but, for me, Honesty Time is more a writing exercise than anything else: a way for me to write about whatever pops into my jumbled head with the possibility that someone else might actually read it. Doing this with Amanda, Rachel, Allyssa, and Kaely is both a perk and an incentive. A perk because since we have graduated college, the 5 of us have drifted apart and this gives us a way to stay together, a group project that is a fun way to stay in touch and create something together. It’s an incentive because now I can’t make excuses, which I am excellent at doing. I won’t let them down because I care about them, and so I will write every week for as long as we decide to do this. Every Thursday, without fail, I will be here, whether I want to be or not, because if I’m not, this won’t work. This is the best way to force me to stop being so damn scared and to do what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: write. Because as my 12th grade Creative Writing teacher so eloquently once said, “To be a writer, you have to write.” You can’t just say you’re one until you create something. This blog is my first real something.
I may not be the next JK Rowling and I might not ever even write a book, and that’s okay. But words are a part of who I am. “Writer” is literally in my name. And I am determined to put my voice out into the world. Maybe no one wants to listen, but I feel like, for my own self-worth, I need to at least put myself out there.
I know this post is different from the other things I’ve written or probably will write, but it’s something I felt like I had to get out. This is Honesty Time, after all. If we were being funny or clever or nostalgic all the time, we wouldn’t be being very honest.