On the other side of those tracks was Historic Route 66, the Mother Road, often called “the most famous road in the world,” one that stretches from Chicago to California.
She could look out her bedroom window or stand on her deck and see these two roads, which had moved so many people and held many stories.
She could see another road, too.
Just beyond Route 66 was Interstate 55, a hustling, bustling road, stretching from Chicago to St. Louis, a thoroughfare where people drive too fast, get too impatient and seldom treat their fellow sojourners with caring and respect.
The writer-wannabe had loved playing with words for as long as she could remember -- watching them bound off of a page to tell her a story, putting them together to share her own stories or to spread her love. But instead of using her words to make a living, she’d spent more than four decades going down a different trail.
When her path led her to Lincoln’s rails, Route 66 and I-55, she was working in a box (a cubicle) within a much bigger box (a corporate office building) in one of a pair of twin cities through which these three roads passed.
If she’d been adventuresome, this writer-wannabe may have been able to hitch a ride on a rail car to get to her job in the box, or like many others from her community, she could have endured a stressful commute a la interstate.
The road less traveled
But this commuter chose the third, the less-traveled path each day. She took Route 66. Instead of jockeying for position, she could take her time, have her space, reflect on whatever thoughts crawled into the passenger seat of her minivan.
About this time, the writer-wannabe, who had attended a writer’s workshop the year before, began listening to books on tape – essays by authors such as Robert Fulghum, Maya Angelou and Erma Bombeck. She found the more she listened to their essays, the more she found herself writing her own -- in her head, if not on paper.
As Memorial Day approached, she submitted a piece about her reflections on the holiday to the area-wide paper. The op-ed editor liked it. Her words were in print.
Then she started writing freelance book reviews about Illinois-related books for a major downstate newspaper. The reviews gave her the writing samples she needed to apply for a job writing for the corporation where she worked. She moved to a different small box in a different big box, and she wrote for a living.
Yet, she still didn’t feel like a writer. The words she wrote were those the organization needed her to write. Even though the letters were dropping from her fingers onto the keyboard, they weren’t her words. They were what the corporation paid her to share.
She longed to write her own words, and took a stab at it from time to time, writing late into the night on a yellow or white legal pad, sitting at her desktop computer until she nodded off at the keyboard or preparing speeches to share with her fellow Toastmasters.
In the fall of 2008, driving through life seeking direction, the scribe ran smack dab into something that was to change her life forever. As she got her morning word fix, reading the daily paper, a front-page article told of a course to be offered at the community college about “The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln.” It was the college’s way of commemorating the upcoming bicentennial of the 16th president’s birth.
The writer-wannabe, a lifelong Lincoln enthusiast, took the course, started a blog, began using social media to promote it, and used vacation days to attend Lincoln events nearby and far away, chronicling her journey on her Lincoln Buff 2 blog.
As the bicentennial wound down and she took a much-needed rest from blogging (she’d done 200 in a year, after all), the blogger realized she’d found something else she loved almost as much as Abraham Lincoln – connecting with people, learning from others and sharing what she’d learned, using social media.
In early 2011, as she looked forward to a physical and a career move, she knew that what would bring her the most happiness in the next phase of her career was a marriage of those two things she loved – writing about things that moved her and sharing them using social media.
A writer I-yam
I was that writer-wannabe. I am no more. In April 2011, I became a full-time writer and editor. I work from home and I love what I do.
Now, having rested from blogging for a while, in addition to my professional writing, I’ve poured tens of thousands of words into four manuscripts, one finished and awaiting its next revision, another barely begun, a third off to a healthy start, and a fourth pouring itself onto the page so furiously that I can barely keep up with it.
Along for the ride
I’m ready to blog again, but the musings I want to share this time don’t belong in a blog dedicated to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Though it’s been more than a decade since I lived in the house near Route 66, these words are the legitimate offspring of those “passengers” on my contemplative commutes. The words, the musings - they still occupying the passenger seat of my minivan, but we’ve got room for more riders.
Please, join us on this journey. It’s bound to be an adventure.
Welcome to “Musings on Route 66.”
© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012