I met her in a mutual friend's kitchen three years ago. I prepped the vegetables for dinner and she told me she was a writer. As I listened to her story, the courage in her voice crept into my timid writer heart and I began to see clearly this calling we both share. When I think about that time when I finally began to take my writing seriously, I think of Angie. I shared a few words on her blog last year and I'm thrilled that you get to hear from her over here today.
Here's a #31days guest post by the courageous Angie Mizzell.
I had just completed my freshman year of college when my maternal grandmother got the diagnosis:
Three weeks later, she was gone. Her death was a sucker punch.
It was too soon.
She was too young.
That summer, I worked as an intern in a public relations office. I tried to keep busy, but many days I didn’t have a lot to do. One afternoon, I couldn’t muster the energy to make myself useful. So, I opened the desk drawer, grabbed a fresh yellow legal pad and a pen, and started to write.
She was invincible to me, and I watched her die.
Words rose up and became paragraphs about who my grandmother was to me and how it felt to lose her. I wrote until I had nothing left. I ripped out the page and saved it.
Summer ended, and I headed back to school. That year, I took a nonfiction writing class. I was a journalism major, but this particular class wasn’t required. I simply liked the course description, and I signed up.
For the first assignment, I pulled out the yellow paper, typed it up and turned it in.
The professor gave it back to me with her notes.
What did you mean here?
And that's how the class worked. We'd write. The professor would edit. And each night I’d sit in the library, revise draft after draft, and feel myself come alive.
I wrote four essays that semester, and I got an A in the class. Today, two decades later, I still have the folder with my stories tucked inside, along with a note from the professor telling me I could "build a career around my writing ability." I remember reading those words for the first time, and how it stirred something inside.
But I was already on a path,
one I wasn’t prepared to modify or change.
Two years later, I graduated college and began a career as a television journalist. It was a career that allowed me to write and tell stories, but it was a different kind of writing and telling. My job was to be objective. And some days, I loved it. But many other days, I didn’t. I carried around an emptiness. I tried to stuff it down, but it was a feeling I could never seem to shake.
Then, when I was 29, I quit. Even though I don’t walk away from anything easily. Even though I would never consider myself a quitter. Since then, I’ve tried on many career hats and have asked myself countless times, “What am I doing with my life?”
The answer emerged when pieces of the story that started on a yellow legal pad found their way to a new page. This time, I had more distance, more perspective. I submitted the essay to the local paper, and it was published.
I also started a blog. I declared it my coming out party as a writer.
Over the years, my blog has donned many taglines. I wear the tagline for as long as it fits, until I’m ready to try on a new one. Recently, I changed it to telling my stories, and yours. I laughed at the simplicity of it. I marveled at the truth of it.
Stories help. Stories heal. Stories are the universal threads that hold us all together.
Sometimes I wonder what took me so long to accept and proclaim it.
I’m a storyteller.
But perhaps we can’t rush our path. The lessons are in the living, and that’s where stories are born.
Angie Mizzell is a writer and mom of three living in Charleston, SC.