My writing life

When I was 7 or 8 years old, I announced to my family that I wanted to be a writer.

I scrawled my ambition on a blue-lined piece of notebook paper, my chosen pen name and job title emblazoned in bold letters: “M.G. Crane — Writer.” I taped the paper to my bedroom door.

My bemused mother asked: “What are you going to do now?”

“Write,” I said.

I turned our wooden piano bench into a makeshift desk, pen and stapler to my right, paper stacked on my left. I positioned our family’s Royal typewriter so I could reach it comfortably from my perch on the edge of the bed.

My mother later told me I clacked away for what seemed like hours on that old typewriter. I wrote and wrote. Or so I claimed. My mother didn’t remember ever seeing the result of my labor.

Many years later my father added his take: “That racket was more than a little annoying.”

I still can picture him in his worn orange chair in front of the TV as he reminisced about my early writing forays, shaking his head and smiling wryly, acting like it was yet another time when my childhood antics were tough to endure.

I wasn’t fooled; I detected a sense of pride, however faint and obscured by his usual teasing.

When my high school guidance counselor asked me about career goals, I described my dream of the moment: “I want to live on a mountain in Montana and venture down to the post office twice a week, once to mail my column and once to pick up my check.”

My writing life turned out to be a little different from the aspirations I harbored back then.

Someone may have written under the name “M.G. Crane,” but it wasn’t me. I decided I liked having others know what I had written. No pen name for me.

Another monumental shift occurred as I evolved into a professional journalist. After initially dreaming of being a sports columnist, I decided in college I preferred seeing my name in boldface type over hard news stories on Page 1. Being humble is nice, but sometimes the ego refuses to be denied.

And about that vision of myself in Montana: I must say, it still sounds attractive. But I have been there only a few times and only on vacation; I have yet to publish a story under a Montana dateline.

We don’t always get what we think we want when we’re young. In my case, that yielded intrigue, not disappointment.

I’ve witnessed triumph and tragedy, glory and senseless suffering while reporting from three continents, from hellholes, enchanting cities and quaint villages, from yurts sheltering nomads on the Central Asian Steppe to marathon matches on Center Court at the U.S. Open in New York.

Some days I believe my writing matters. Some days I’m not so sure.

When I look back, I eventually conclude that I wouldn’t do it any other way if given a second chance. What a great feeling.

And who knows? I may get to that Montana summit yet.


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