Friday Speak Out!: Not a Nice Little Hobby

Friday, August 07, 2020
by Jeaninne Escallier Kato

I recently sent my memoir manuscript, “B.J.’s Promise,” to a childhood friend. After weeks of waiting for her critique, she called me to say, “I could actually see and feel your relationship with B.J., the dog I remember changing your life. Your writing is such a nice little hobby.” I was so taken aback by her response, nice little hobby, I had no response. This is from a woman who bought my children’s book, Manuel’s Murals, for her grandchildren, who cheered for me when I won a flash fiction contest, and who has followed my writing path with other publications since we were young adults.

Other friends suggested she was jealous of my talent, or didn’t want to give it the credit it’s due for whatever reasons; but for me, it was symbolic of a bigger picture. This particular friend didn’t mean any harm, she probably didn’t even realize the impact of her words. Not being a writer herself, how could she know what words mean to me? Which brings me to the existential question of why I write, why any of us write. I have thought long and hard about this; I feel deeply compelled to share my thoughts here in this newsletter with other writers.

I know why the word ‘hobby’ stung so deeply. My writing is an extension of who I am, it is an account of my existence on this planet. I don’t consider the people and experiences of my life as hobbies, as if they are ancillary to the meaning of my life or a way to pass the time in between what matters. My writing is a way to encapsulate all the experiences, in one form or another, with the people, pets, places I have loved, known and encountered because that is everything to me. It is my way to rejoice every aspect my life, for good or bad.

Dancers dance, painters paint, actors act. They do it because it is what they were born to do. They do it because parts of them would die if they didn’t. Isn’t that why we write? Our stories may not be exactly as we have lived them, but when we create new stories, we are exercising the needs and drives of every electrical current in our brains. We are honoring how we are wired. We are honoring who we are.

My writing isn’t just for me. I write to inspire, to educate, to support, to soothe, and yes, to even challenge my reader. Any movie that has ever impacted my life came from a writer. Any book that affected me as a child sparked the course of my life. My best works have been written to enlighten the reader to new cultures, hopefully, to minimize prejudice and racial divide in these divisive times.

Having said all that, I need to give myself permission to say, “No, writing isn’t a fun little hobby; it is what I was born to do.” Don’t you agree?

* * * 
Jeaninne Escallier Kato is a retired educator who finds her writing muse in the Mexican culture. She is the author of the noted children's book, Manuel's Murals Jeaninne is a WOW flash fiction 2017 winner for her story, "A Desert Rose." She is published in two Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, has stories in several online literary magazines, and her essay, "Swimming Lessons" is featured in the coffee table anthology, Gifts From Our Grandmothers. Jeaninne is in the process of publishing her memoir, B.J.'s Promise.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Jeaninnne--Of course you do.

I'm hoping your friend had no idea what she was saying.

Of course you have the right to say, "Writing is not what I do. It's who I am. It's a part of my soul... my heart. It's as necessary to my existence as breathing... as bloodflow. Would you call 'parenting' a hobby? No? Well, neither is writing."

Good luck with your future writing. I would suggest getting a button made that says, "I'm a writer." Or a writing hat. Or a writing t-shirt. Or just have an honest talk with your friend--to let them know who you are. If they're truly a friend, your honesty and openess will change the way they look at you...

Theresa Boedeker said...

I think people who don't write don't understand the life of a writer. The time it takes to write a manuscript. The brain energy it takes. All the things that go into writing. And so they see it as a hobby, something we do for a few hours a day. And I don't really know how to educate them. So I am trying to educate myself and remind myself I am a writer and that it is hard work. And it is more than a hobby. It is my life work.

Jufrida said...

Thank you, ladies. Yes, it feels so good to hear from fellow writers, artists who know what it takes to give our heart and soul to our work. I love the idea of wearing a T-shirt or a hat; however, just knowing that I am a writer is all the edification I need. And, it doesn't hurt that our readers gain from our words. Sharing our words is sharing our love.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

This is an awe-inspiring essay Jeaninne, and I'm not saying this because we share the same name spelled slightly different. Many people mean well, but they don't know the depth of our passion for writing. I so agree with you that we were born to do this. Good luck with your memoir. I'm sure it will be a success.

Jufrida said...

Thank you, Jeanine, with the correct spelling (my mother added an extra n in her post birth haze). I am so gratified that we have a forum such as this to share our passions with people who understand! Good luck with your endeavors as well.

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