“What’s in a name?” Juliet laments as she thinks of her lover Romeo-of the rival Montague family. “Who am I?” Jean ValJean sings as he is torn between revealing his true self or allowing another to be charged with a crime he did not commit. “Did you lie?” Oprah grills Lance Armstrong. All of these questions mix in my mind as I think about writing, as I consider “what to do next” and even as I carve my initials in a slightly off-center bowl I have just pulled off a potter’s wheel.
“You have a contract with your reader…,” the English professor looks me in the eyes through my computer screen as I complete an online lesson on Writing Creative Non-Fiction, “…a contract to always tell the truth!” “What difference does it make?”—Hillary Clinton screeches to a committee looking for answers. “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” A quote from Anais Nin, hastily written on a post-it note, stares at me from my desk drawer. These voices fill the empty spaces of my imagination as I clean and fold and drive and shower.
“Why do you want to write?”—my friend asks, as we sit in the warmth of the January sun talking about life and death, dreams and poetry. “I wish I had a pseudonym,” my daughter says as we discuss our blogs and I think of the one I would have chosen—Anne Honeyfield—names from both of my grandmothers. “My what a tangled web we weave when at first we do deceive,” so learned Manti Ta’o the Norte Dame football player caught in a game of Catfish! All of these thoughts have continued to simmer on the back burners of my mind, while other more important ideas evaporate into doubt and confusion.
And, as the questions brew, slowly the answers begin to come. Gradually, new goals come into focus and stories once again begin to form. I grow to love the outspokenness of the family matriarch in Downton Abbey and secretly yearn to be like her. I feel indignation rise in my blood at the suggestion that “women who understand their roles have no need to lobby for rights!” I smile when I see a .com that bears my name and long to use it. I remind a teenager to be a leader not a follower—and realize I am reprimanding myself. I cheer on those elite women Navy Seals who will now be able to work beside their male counterparts, as I watch the evening news. I sink into warrior pose as I follow a morning yoga DVD and “feel the strength of mother earth” moving up through my legs. I reclaim my name and boldly sign a piece of art…Colleen. I install Word on my new computer and once again begin to write.