More Magazine’s editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour interviews Rita Wilson at the Reinvention Convention in LA
I love what Rita Wilson has to say about reinvention. I saw her speak recently at More Magazine’s Reinvention Convention in LA. She encourages us to think about what we loved to do as children. This rang all sorts of bells for me because lately I’ve been asked over and over about success, and over and over I hear people confess that they loathe their job. “I’m good at it, but I hate it.” And I wonder about that. Our society, school, most institutions teach us to ask the question: what am I good at? But I think that’s an unfortunate if not plain dangerous question. When I finally realized that I was a writer, a lot of people looked at me uncomfortably, knowing what I then didn’t know about how hard the writing life is, and said, “Then you should go into adverstising.” I’d look at them strangely. “I want to write novels. Not jingles about Keebler elves.” They’d just shake their heads.
If I look back at who I’ve been since I was a little girl, there are pages and pages to prove that I’ve been writing stories since the beginning. I have journals that go back to fourth grade full of story ideas. I once wrote a whole journal-sized book (my first memoir, I suppose) entitled, “Things Not to Do to Your Kids.” I’m afraid to read it because I’m afraid I’ve committed every one of those “sins” as a mother.
But it’s a good exercise, especially if you are at a crossroads in your life. What do you LOVE to do? Who have you been being all along without even thinking about it? What comes naturally to you that you can’t wait to do? What homework assignments had you racing to get home? I remember one that had my spirit soaring. It was fourth grade and the English teacher asked us to write a poem about our favorite place. I have it right here, in fact:
(this is a lake by another name in Wisconsin where we spent our summers. For some reason I felt the need to protect it, much like you never hear the name of any town or creature in my book except my daughter’s pet rat Houdini.) …remember– fourth grade, so with only a speck of apology…here goes:
At three o’clock this morning
I walked down to Small Lake.
I sat myself beside a tree
And longed for the large pond to wake.
As time went by my patience died
And into the lake I threw,
A rock which skipped at least three times
Then sank without a clue.
Suddenly a fish jumped up
And frogs began to croak
Which sounded very similar
To an elephant about to choke.
Way off in the distance
I heard the loon’s lonely cry
The sun gleamed down upon me
And then I heaved a sigh.
I knew that I must go now
To part with the pine and the fern
How sad I was to leave Small Lake
You can be sure that I’ll return.
Hopefully you have a fond smile in your lips. I do. It’s sweet and dramatic just like any fourth grade writer should be.
Then in seventh grade, I wrote this poem for a school contest and won it.
Man at the Seashore
The withering man with the idiot’s eyes
Lives under a shelter of rock.
He lives a life full of sorrows and lies and digs for shells by the dock.
The sea is his friend and the waves talk to him
There is nothing that they haven’t told.
The trees give him shade as he climbs on a limb
And watches the world grow old.
If it’s reinvention that you seek, look into your youth. See what’s there. See who you already are.