You may have noticed the beret is too big. It once belonged to a dear friend, a screenwriter I met when I first arrived in San Francisco. Fresh out of college in Southern California, I landed at SFO on a rainy day with fifty dollars in my pocket and a dream of writing. Not of being a writer, you understand, but of writing. Everyone wants to be a writer, I was told by the English teacher who set me on this path at the age of seventeen. But writing, he said, is different. It takes discipline, it takes inquiry, and it takes mental stamina. Find a job working with your hands, he said, to keep your mind free for writing at night. So I left academia to pursue my dream, having forgotten that the only thing I knew how to do with my hands was housework. I still dream of writing, even though I write everyday, because there are many obstacles for people, and especially for women, who pursue a life in the arts. When you’re not writing, he said, you should be reading, and when you’re not reading, you should be writing. That bit of advice has served me better than the part about working with my hands.
People ask me how I know so much about writing, sensing that it’s not something you learn in school. A life of writing and reading and listening helps me break down the process for others. Not a teacher exactly, though I am a writing teacher. Not an editor exactly, though I am an editor. I am a writing advocate because I help people express what they need to say in the written form, whether it’s a business report, an essay, a letter or an application, a thesis, or a short story. So yes, I know the beret is too big. But it was a gift and I wear it with joy.