Become Who Your Are

Today's guest blogger is Deb Caletti, author of The Six Rules of Maybe. Enjoy! Like most authors, I knew I was a writer early on, from about the age of seven. I knew it because I would rush to my room to write down these stories I had to tell. I knew it because on long car rides I would look at the dry yellow hills of the Bay Area and the sagging barn roofs and I would feel something that needed words, words I wanted – no, again, had – to reach for. I knew it because of the way books moved me, and even the way the library did. I knew I was an observer, who sat at the edges of things and described them in order to understand.

When I was about eight or nine, my father brought home a typewriter from his office. I claimed it for my own. I didn’t do much with it, really, but I loved it. It was heavy and important. Maybe I felt some inborn affinity to it even though it was foreign to me, some connection from the past or future or who knew, like a person who visits the land of their ancestors and finds the place already there in their bones. Around that time, too, I began to win writing contests at my school. It was heady stuff – blue ribbons and readings in front of the whole assembly, the elementary school equivalent of a book deal and NPR. A peek into the possible grandeur this thing I did (no, this thing I was) held in store.

I continued to write, always wrote, stories, plays, lyrics, more stories. But what grew alongside my writing was fear, fear and the good reasons for it, too – knowledge of the impossible terrain toward publication, peaks that would be too high for me, the big cumulous doubts about my talent overhead. I studied journalism when a journalist was the last thing I was. I kept only my toe in the writing waters because it was too cold and maybe I couldn’t even swim.

And then one day, actually one day, I got sick of myself, of all of the head-talk and no action. I was thirty-two. I made a serious deal with me. Do this thing. No matter what it took, starting now. I taped a quote above my desk, by Nietzsche: “Become who you are.” You’d think becoming who we are (no matter what that is) would be the simplest, most natural event, wouldn’t you? But more often than not, it’s the most difficult. Facing what you are and owning up, choosing to live forevermore in that kind of authenticity… It means no more excuses and no more hiding and no more diversions and dishonesty. It means jumping in the water, or setting off over that terrain, choose your metaphor of choice. Too bad about the fear, is the point. Just, too bad.

Fast forward through the years of work and the unpublished books and the agony of not yet, and pause now on a life of being who I am once again. Sagging barn roofs that make me feel things, which today I find the words for as a regular part of my work. Observing on a daily basis, the keys of the typewriter (now laptop) my accepted, ordinary homeland. And I am convinced, convinced that this all happens when the motives are pure, when it’s not about blue ribbons or delusions of grandeur but instead is the cell-deep, meant- to-be truth finding its way to the page. When it’s not about who you wish you were or who you’re too afraid to be, but who you are and always have been. When that seven or nine or ten year old self takes out that old typewriter and finally, at long last, begins to do the honest work.

Deb Caletti is the award-winning author of The Queen of Everything, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, The Nature of Jade, and The Secret Life of Prince Charming, among others. In addition to being a National Book Award finalist, Deb’s work has gained other distinguished recognition, including the PNBA Best Book Award, the Washington State Book Award, and School Library Journal’s Best Book award, and finalist citations for the California Young Reader Medal and the PEN USA Literary Award.  Her seventh book with Simon & Schuster, The Six Rules of Maybe, was released in 2010.  Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions and Foundation Features (Formerly Infinity Features, makers of “Capote”) have also recently partnered to bring five of Deb’s novels to film.  Deb grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and now lives with her family in Seattle.