This past December I flew home for Christmas. I’ve flown home before. I’ve gone home for Christmas before. But I’ve never before flown home for Christmas. I booked my tickets back in October, when tickets were still reasonably priced, and routed myself through Salt Lake City, not realizing that it would take me more than a few extra hours to get home.
The thing about writing, though, is that your work can travel with you. Anywhere. It is more cumbersome when your “work” takes the form of a five-pound stack of marked-up manuscripts (half of which were used as kindling in my parents’ fireplace), but fairly reasonable if your work can be typed on a laptop or sent in an email. This is the sort of work I did on the flight from Salt Lake City to Lincoln, Nebraska. It is perhaps the only type of work that can be done on the size of plane that flies into the Lincoln airport.
I was in the middle of editing a young adult novel for an aspiring writer in the Bay Area. It was a chance encounter and good stroke of luck that connected me with this particular assignment, so I was particularly motivated to give good feedback.
As I scrolled through the story on my iPhone I made meticulous notes in a black composition notebook on the tiny tray table in front of me. The man across the aisle watched as I worked. I glanced up from my phone and he turned to make conversation.
“You seem to be reading that mighty carefully,” he noted. “Are you a writer?”
I didn’t stop. I didn’t pause. I didn’t even miss a beat.
“I am,” I replied happily, matter of fact. As if I wasn’t pretending. As if writing really was what I meant to do with my life.
“I’m doing some editing at the moment. On a young adult novel about a girl who loses her mother and moves to Africa to live with her aunt for a year.”
“That sounds very interesting,” he said.
“It is,” I assured.
We made small talk for a while and I went back to my work. As I scrolled and read and jotted and sighed I wondered for a moment if maybe, just maybe, I could own that statement. That I could say and be a writer as easily as that. Sometimes the first step in achieving a dream is believing that you can.