Peggy Browning, Writer. Wow, that’s me.
by Peggy Browning, writer (duh)
I only recently started calling myself a writer. I’ve wanted to be one of “them” since I was a little girl.
Picture me…3rd grade…writing stories and keeping them in a two-pronged folder, slowly but steadily making a little book.
(Peggy Browning, writer, age about 9, standing in my Granny & Grandpa’s yard, wearing my Aunt Fern’s fancy beads and bracelets.)
Picture me…5th grade…writing a news story about Walt Disney’s death, using my very best cursive handwriting, making a final draft with a Bic pen on a clean sheet of notebook paper and placing the finished story in the growing portfolio.
I earned a bachelor’s degree in education…not journalism or creative writing or English… from MidwesternStateUniversity in 1979 because that was the practical thing to do. Back then, teaching was a recession proof profession. That’s no longer true.
I had lots of jobs over the years. I was sort of capable, sort of committed, sort of reliable at all of them. But I was miserable working at every one, except for when it came to writing something that pertained to those jobs.
When I started teaching here in Texas, the essential elements were just being added to the state curriculum. There was no official state-required curriculum (thank God) other than basic guidelines of what students should learn at each grade level. There was no C-scope bullshit…no TEKS requirements…no schooldays spent giving reams of tests or benchmarks assessing what each kid didn’t know. Teachers were actually allowed to teach.
Teaching was fun and creative back then…in the good old days. We could write our own lessons and teach them…not just lesson plans based on those damned TEKS.
I wasn’t all that great at teaching. But I enjoyed writing the lessons.
I was employed as a social worker for the State of Texas (this is where I acquired my extensive vocabulary of swear words). I wasn’t a great social worker, mostly because I didn’t really like to hear about other people’s unfixable “feelings”.
Often when I was supposed to be listening to my clients tell me about their depression or delusional thoughts, I was thinking about how their stories would make a great plot for a novel. Oh, by the end of their hour with me, I snapped out of it and helped them get what they needed: an appointment with the psychiatrist, a note for their parole officer, help filling out their food stamp and SSI applications.
The best part of that job was writing the clients’ social histories. The social histories had to be updated every two years for the files of every client. I had to research the prior social histories, current psychiatric assessments, data from the files…then I compiled it all into a readable story of their lives, illnesses, trials and tribulations. That was my favorite part of the whole job. My supervisor praised my social history writing even when she could find nothing else for which to commend me.
I worked as a fund-raiser/development director for a non-profit agency for a few years. I loved that job. My favorite part, again, was the writing. I loved writing grant proposals…the concise use of language, the word limit, the precise descriptions of the projects for which I was requesting funds…it was great. I wrote press releases, marketing materials, board letters, newsletters…you name it, I wrote it.
But nowhere in any of these jobs was I allowed to call myself a writer. I was a teacher, a social worker, a fund-raiser. I would never have dared to call myself a writer even though I was continually carrying a story in my head, scribbling notes on a napkin when I was at lunch, writing a phrase on a piece of paper torn off an envelope, pulling over to the side of the road to jot down an idea that came to me while driving.
I wrote some children’s books, some (really terrible) music reviews, a few freelance stories for the local newspaper, and started several still unfinished novels. But when someone asked me what I did, I responded with whatever job I was a working at then. I never once said, “Hello…I’m Peggy Browning, writer.”
My friends are relieved that I finally started writing my stories. I don’t talk as much now. I am known for long-winded, detailed orations that outlast my audience’s interest. I love to tell stories, but not everyone can listen that long. They usually interrupt me to tell me their own stories. And that’s OK with me because I’m always gathering stories and ideas that I can use later.
Now I don’t bother too much with the long orations. I write my words on paper…and my friends can order them on amazon.com now. I am relieved by this too. Now I can finish a story with no interruptions, no rolled eyes, no unbelieving comments. It works best this way.
I am Peggy Browning, writer…not Peggy Browning, long-winded talker.
Recently I dressed in a flowery tunic and leggings and slipped my feet into sandals. I let my hair down and let it blow in the breeze. I wore dangly earrings and a silver bracelet to a café to meet my friend for a lunch date. When I arrived, she said “You look like a writer.”
I do? I do? Oh, my gosh! Is this what a writer wears? Is that a writer I see reflected in the café window? Peggy Browning, writer?
Now with three books written and published, I feel more inclined to identify myself as a writer. (I don’t have to say that I actually support myself by working at a car lot, do I?)
I can identify myself and my love for concise descriptions with three words: Peggy Browning, writer.
Yep. That’s me. I like the sound of that.