Reason To Write: To Find My Voice

Lori Widmer: Writer and Editor Extraordinaire

In a continuation of Freelancedom’s Reason To Write series, I introduce to you veteran writer and editor Lori Widmer. I love her story because it reminds me of my own… the story of a young girl who barely spoke, yet found her voice in the writing of poetry. I’m sure many of you will be able to relate to it as well. Thanks, Lori, for sharing your story!

If you knew me, you’d be shocked to learn that I spent the first three decades of my life as a shy introvert who couldn’t seem to find a way into conversations. Until I was about 10, you probably wouldn’t remember a conversation with me at all. I wouldn’t talk. At home my parents wished to God I’d shut up, but once you got me in school, at a relative’s house, or even at the neighbor’s house next door, I would clam up. In school I wouldn’t talk above a whisper unless the teacher called on me because, in my pint-sized mind, I thought my voice sounded different, weird.  I was afraid of being heard.

Maybe that’s why I wrote when I was young. When we were 8 and 10 respectively, my sister and I had a “newspaper” we’d sell to the neighbors for five cents. The news consisted of battles we’d had with our brother, cats’ birthdays, and happenings in our little neighborhood (like someone getting a new bike).  We had a subscriber base of two — the next-door neighbor and my mother.

In sixth grade, I won the attention of the teacher for a poem I wrote about a salamander. Mind you, it wasn’t because the poem was good (it was), but because Louis decided to fall asleep in class that day. My poem gave the teacher fuel — she pointed out to slackers like Louis that getting a good night’s sleep meant you could finish your homework like Lori did.

Thankfully, that didn’t kill my creativity, though I can’t say the same for my reputation. In high school, I found a channel for all those feelings associated with unrequited boy crushes and the general agony of being a teenager. I wrote a poem, which garnered my acceptance into the creative writing class, where I thrived. My voice had awakened, but it wasn’t ready for prime time yet.

Then I married the wrong person. After a long stretch of not wanting to be heard, I realized that I had something to say. And I wanted to know who I was. The funny thing about being silent for so long: you aren’t introduced to you, so you have no idea who you are, what you want, and where you’re heading. You just mark time.

So that’s what I did, all the while listening to someone who had no problem telling me who I was and where I was headed. Apparently, I was a screw-up and I wasn’t going to amount to much, in his opinion. It was his fear and insecurity talking, but I wasn’t aware enough to know it wasn’t true.

It took one small, intense sadness — the death of my lifelong dog — to snap me back to reality. I had been in an online writing group and a local writing group, but my writing wasn’t based on anything too close to emotion. I avoided it lest the floodgates open. It took losing my dog to open it up. Once I tapped into the emotions, there was no turning back. My life changed radically. I made the decision to divorce, and I began building the life I should have built in the first place.

I’ve always considered myself an open book emotionally but, looking back, that wasn’t always true. I was eager to laugh and joke, but I’d never admit my own sadness or fears. It was through writing and reaching into difficult places that I grew as a person. The person I am today shares everything honestly, even painfully.

Even in those early days, when my voice was as invisible as I felt, I had words as companions. As long as I wrote, I felt real. I always knew there was power in good writing — my teachers began echoing my mother’s appreciation — but I didn’t let go fully until I was ready emotionally. When I used writing to mourn and reflect, I found the strength one can find by reaching into the dark corners and describing the view. It took a while to find my own darkness, but doing so has made my life so much brighter.


  1. Thanks for the venue and a great series, Steph! I appreciate it. 🙂

  2. Lori,

    I enjoyed reading how you got started writing. As long as I’ve been reading your blog, I didn’t know this. And I’m certainly glad you are no longer invisible or silent.

  3. Lori,

    Thanks for being so open. This is a lovely little glimpse into the life of a woman I admire very much!

  4. Beautiful story, Lori, and beautiful writing. I need to read that Salamander poem one of these days. ;o)

  5. Lillie, great seeing you again! Thanks for your kind words. 🙂

    Ashley, I appreciate your admiration! Very sweet of you.

    I’ll get that poem out some day, Kathy. We’ll have a laugh!

  6. True feeling, whether it’s sadness or joy, is what makes the personal universal and the universal personal.

  7. Couldn’t have said it better, Devon. 🙂


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