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 Born to Write
 A Blog by Author Amy Hill Hearth

How I Found my Place in the World

I want to share a story with college students struggling to answer the questions, What career should I choose? What do I want to do with my life?


I was one of those students who floundered. I changed my major from Psychology to Sociology, then History, and finally English Literature.


Although I had always loved to write, it didn't occur to me that I could be a professional writer. I didn't see the common thread until someone pointed it out to me. Perhaps this was because I didn't know anyone who made a living as a writer. My father had a degree in engineering and my mother, in math and physics.


And then one day during the worst of my confusion, my father asked me, sort of nonchalantly, "Have you ever noticed that the classes where you got an A – when you were happy – always included a writing project?"


Hmmm. Truer words were never spoken. The subject didn't matter at all. History, English literature, Sociology – Dad was right. If a course had been structured around a writing project, I was in Heaven, and I excelled.


"You love to write," Dad said simply.


And then I asked what now seems like the stupidest question ever: "Doesn't everyone?"


"Why, no," Dad replied. "In fact, most people don't like to write at all. See, writing comes so naturally to you that you assume everyone can do it well. Maybe you should be a writer."


The conversation with Dad was life changing. I had always expressed myself through writing. I kept diaries and wrote long letters starting in grade school. I wrote a draft of a novel during the summer between fifth and sixth grade. Why had I not seen this as a path for my future? Why did it take someone to point it out to me?


I have no idea. I was young and overwhelmed, I guess.


I knew in my heart that Dad was right. Immediately, I applied and then transferred to a smaller college with an intensive writing program. I took courses in magazine writing, creative writing, and screenwriting. I joined the college newspaper staff. I got an internship at a magazine in my senior year, then my first job at a daily newspaper, and on and on, leading me eventually to a reporting contract at The New York Times and then my first book contract.


After a single conversation with my dad, I was able to find my place in the world, and I've never looked back. Sometimes, what it takes is the right advice from the right person. 



Are You a Bystander in Your Own Life?

My father was a very good amateur photographer. Then one day in middle age, he set down his camera forever.


He simply stopped taking pictures. He'd been his high school's yearbook photographer, documented his own experience in WW II with a camera, and took hundreds of photos of his wife and family in the 1950s, '60, and '70s.


I must have been in my late teens when we all noticed he no longer carried his camera bag with him. I asked him why, and he said he was tired of feeling as if he were documenting life rather than living it. "I want to be a participant, not an observer," he explained.


I've thought of his words often. I love photography and have sold some of my pictures over the years to newspapers and magazines. I've taken my own photographs for one of my nonfiction books. But I understand what Dad meant and I've heeded his warning. Photography is a passion that will swallow you whole if you're not careful. When I go out with friends, I don't want to be the person everyone counts on to get a photograph of us together. Ditto for every experience from travel to family holidays. I don't want to be worried about the lighting, or if someone blinked. I want to live the experience, not record it.


Now this situation is multiplied a thousand times with social media. Those of us who participate are performers, documentarians, reporters, witnesses, and judges. On social media, real life can take a backseat, and it's not always clear what is truly happening. Some people are perhaps too candid while others are cautious. Many people present a curated view of their lives. Some people post photos once a month and others, ten times per day.


As for me, I'm finding my own way. I love social media but I don't want it to own me. I love photography but I don't want it to take over.


Like Dad, I want to live fully in the moment.

On Memorial Day, a World War II Dad’s Legacy: Never Take a Day for Granted

My dad always had a strange reaction to Memorial Day Weekend, or so it seemed to me as a little girl. Yes, it was the beginning of summer and we celebrated (if that is the right word) with hamburgers on the grill and root beer floats.

But I realized from an early age that the so-called “holiday” was a time when my dad, a World War Two Army veteran and normally a very upbeat person, was also quietly grieving.

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Saying Goodbye to a Dearly-Loved Father through Storytelling and Song

My beloved father died earlier this month at the age of 92. Thank you to all of you who prayed for Dad and sent condolences on his passing. My mother, who turns 91 in a few days, is doing as well as can be expected. She is very settled in their apartment and has lots of attention from her extended family as well as devoted aides who love her and loved Dad, too. Dad's life is proof that people who are happy and kind spread happiness and kindness  Read More