Fall Guest Post Series: Heidi (While My Boyfriend Was Sleeping)

This week’s guest post is by one of my favorite bloggers! Heidi is the arts and entertainment editor for the Sarasota Observer in Florida. When I found her blog, While My Boyfriend Was Sleeping, nearly a year ago, I read all of her posts in one sitting.

 I love her writing! So much, in fact, that I asked her to write a post about writing!

Her guest post kind of reminds me of my Why I Write, Why I Blog post. She explains all of the things that writers love about writing, and why writers have to write to stay sane.

So, without further ado, meet Heidi!

Heidi

I write, therefore I am

by Heidi Kurpiela

I’m going to be honest with you. It’s hard for me to write about writing right now when all I want to do is stick my face in a giant bowl of vanilla ice cream and slurp loudly while someone reads me the latest issue of Rolling Stone.

I cannot even bear to read. I want to be read to. I want to be read to and spoon-fed ice cream. I want to be a toddler.

Unfortunately I’m all out of vanilla ice cream and this month’s Rolling Stone cover was about HBO’s “True Blood,” which is lost on me, as I’m the only girl in the world not getting off on vampires.

I guess I should introduce myself: my name is Heidi and I promised Rosey Rebecca that I would write a guest post about writing. She gave me a deadline and I’m nothing if not married to deadlines.

I’m a journalist. Deadlines are my life. When I’m avoiding them, I write this blog: While My Boyfriend Was Sleeping. I started it because my boyfriend (who is now my husband) used to sleep in late on the weekends and I would rise at 8 a.m. to an overly air-conditioned apartment ripe with peace and quiet. I decided to fill that time with writing because writing is all I’ve ever done. I’m addicted to it. And like any addiction, it’s wretched and wonderful at the same time.

I tried to warn Rebecca about the pitfalls of this profession, but as evidenced by her unwavering ambition and natural journalistic talents, I can see she’s headed for a career in writing.

Writing. For a living.

It sounds glorious to anyone who has ever not written for a living.

I should point out that writing about writing when you’re in the thick of cranking out stories for a weekly newspaper is like asking a quarterback to talk about football when he’s in the middle of a huddle. It’s my own fault. I willingly agreed to write about writing. It’s my favorite topic, I enthusiastically replied via email a couple weeks ago.

Bah.

It’s a Monday night and like I said, I want ice cream. My brain feels like a dishtowel wrung too many times and with so much force it’s no longer a towel, but a brown limp rag, stained with spaghetti sauce and stinking like Ramen noodles.

I’m 28. I’ve been a reporter since I was 17.

I grew up in Western New York, where I interned for my hometown newspaper my senior year of high school. Six months later, the editor offered me a full-time job as a staff reporter, which I turned down to go to college. Instead I agreed to work as a stringer, covering town board meetings in a nearby town with rural problems. (Example of a rural problem: manure seepage on village sidewalks.) I covered these meetings throughout most of my four years at Buffalo State College.

I started writing well before that. When I was in third grade I wrote a series of children’s books titled “Weirderville” about a town in which hackneyed expressions actually happen, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs” and my personal favorite, “cry me a river.” By the time I got to sixth grade my appetite for writing had become so insatiable and the topics so curious, my teacher found the habit disconcerting and insisted I see the school psychologist to discuss my “overactive imagination.”

I wanted to be a novelist, but I was told novelists don’t make money, so instead I became a journalist. (I still want to be a novelist. When you’ve got the urge, it never goes away.)

Journalism, as Rebecca can tell you, is a beast unto itself. We writers geek out for hours on such topics as alliteration, the splendor of metaphors, the impact of sparsely constructed sentences and the beauty of long, languid run-on paragraphs.

But since this is a healthy living blog, I’m going to refrain from discussing the nuts and bolts of what I do and instead explain why I must do it. Suffice it to say, I’m a feature writer, which means I write A LOT. I spend hours with subjects, immersed in their worlds and in this position I’ve learned more about people than I ever dreamed possible.

People tell me their life stories on a weekly basis.

As someone who interviews artists for a living, I can tell you that writing is as much an art form as painting or dancing or playing the violin. And just like any artist, we writers do it because we can’t help it.

It took me a long time to realize this.

My sixth grade teacher wasn’t the only one who thought I needed to see a shrink. I thought I was crazy too, until I realized the thing that made me crazy also made me special.

When I don’t write, I lose my mind. I get lost in my head. I burn the rice on the stove. I forget to fill my car up with gas. I snap at my sisters. I forget to pay the bills. My eyes glaze over and my preternaturally sunny disposition and screwball sense of humor betray me. My self worth shrivels into the fetal position and I feel disgustingly sorry for myself.

When I write, I’m a kid again, an electric ball of tingling neurons pulsing with creativity. I’m 12 years old, awake at night scribbling stories in my journal, at peace with myself and my place in the world.

The best kind of writing is such a release it makes me cry without warning. It’s better than any chemical high. It’s the unzipping of your chest and the emptying the contents of yourself onto a blank page white with possibilities.

I still don’t know if I chose to be a writer or if writing chose me. Try as I may to embrace the craft, I still find myself simultaneously celebrating it and apologizing for it every day.

Whenever I think about what I do and who I am, I think about something a painter I interviewed once told me when I asked him why he paints.

He said, “If I didn’t paint, I wouldn’t feel normal.”

And I feel exactly the same way.

Thanks Heidi!

What about you? Why do you write? And if you don’t write, what do use as your therapy?

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9 comments

  1. I like this post!

    I’ve always loved to write, I feel like its a part of me. Even though I’m saving lives all day as an RN, I love to escape through writing and reading other people’s writing.

  2. It’s posts like this that make me want to get down on the floor praising Jesus that there is someone out there like me. I don’t know WHY I write … I just know that I have to, that I’ve always had to write. The story that’s famous in my family is that I toddled up to my mom on my third birthday with a blank sheet of paper and a crayon, demanding that she teach me to read and write because I was a “big girl.” Thanks for the introduction to Heidi and her blog … I think I’ve found my new favorite person!

  3. Yup, Carly! You’re not alone. Us writers are a hopelessly dreamy lot –– and we’re EVERYWHERE.

    I’m glad you all can relate. I need to write a post like this every six months, because every six months I wonder if what I do has value. And then inevitably, I realize it always has value to me, which is enough … for now.

  4. THIS has been the highlight of my morning, thank you so much! I now have a new blog to add to my Reader and a new journalist’s words to indulge in. Everything said here is so, so right. As someone who worked on deadline and had to leave that tangled world, I miss it terribly and my biggest piece of advice would be to take ANYTHING you can and stick with it. If it’s your passion, don’t ever let it slip – for even one day! One day turns into a string of many, then weeks and months pass you by and you haven’t indulged your creative juices. You will be just fine, Dear Rebecca – I know it!

  5. Hi Mrs. Heidi – aka the best writer/blogger ever!

    Just had to say that I’m with you on the True Blood thing. Never watched it probably never will. Not only that but I don’t subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine and for some reason I received a copy in the mail this week. Imagine my surprise! Surprise which was compounded by the fact that it featured three naked people on the front covered in blood. Odd. The cover must have worked though, because I opened it right up and read all about that show that I’ll probably never watch.

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