Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver, from "The Summer Day"
I wrote my first poem when I was eleven, sitting on a log in the field behind my home on a dreary Ohio November day, and, in one way or another, I've written throughout my life, mainly poems and short stories. But I didn't figure out the answer to Mary Oliver's question until I started writing my memoir. Before then, the poems and stories got the tail-end of my energy, writing always secondary to my day jobs, whether they were teaching or technical writing and editing or working in a bookstore.
I regret that it took me so long to put writing first or even second. In his essay “Fires,” Raymond Carver talks about his difficult early days: “In those days I figured if I could squeeze in an hour or two a day for myself, after job and family, that was more than good enough. That was heaven itself.” I now have way more than an hour or two a day, time to stop brooding over lost time and start enjoying heaven.