Treasure!I’ve always been fascinated by the notion of hidden treasure, be it flecks of gold in a fast-running creek, antiques tucked away in attics or basements, notes sealed in bottles, or—even better—jewels, old coins and the like shoved under loose floorboards, holed up in caves, buried on beaches, or resting in rusting hulks of ancient shipwrecks.

You don’t want to know how many imaginary treasure maps I created as a kid, but a lot. To this day there are few words as exciting to me as “X marks the spot,” and it’s a lifelong regret that I haven’t learned to scuba dive so that I can explore crooks and crannies under the sea myself. (But my years aren’t done yet!)

Just recently, no scuba needed, I chanced upon a real-life, genuine treasure.

I was trekking along a rough, winding path. Wind screamed through the trees, and showered me with broken branches and sharp twigs. Freezing rain beat down, soaking me through and setting my bones to aching. In the gathering evening gloom, it felt as if I’d taken a wrong turn—no, no, wait, sorry, bit of exaggeration there. But I did go to my mailbox recently. And it was probably rainy. I do live near trees. And I did discover treasure.

As I turned the key, opened the metal door, and spotted the parcel’s sender’s address, my stomach flipped. I knew the gem it contained before I even opened it.

A while back, I’d bought my grandma a journal called, “Grandma, Tell Me Your Story,” by Susan Branch. I hoped, of course, she’d enjoy meandering down memory lane and ruminating on the various questions, but I was quick to admit that really the “gift” was for me. My grandma Ruby Forsyth, née Gilgan, has always been one my heroes and inspirations—on motherhood, on coping when life is hard, on delighting in the beauty and wonder of simple, perfect things. I have never met anyone as patient as her. Ever.

I’m fortunate because I still have her in my life to talk to and visit, but I wanted a written record, notes about her life growing up and as a young wife and mother, pioneering with my grandfather.

She graciously obliged—the proof of which now sat in my mailbox.

As I slit the end of the package and saw the journal’s telltale pink and white edge, I couldn’t have been more thrilled had I found an old wooden chest with a pirate’s sword sticking out of it!

To have pages and pages written in her own hand? Well, “treasure” doesn’t suffice to describe it, actually. When I read her anecdotes, I hear her voice and see the twinkle in her eye. And the fact that much of her story is also the story of me—and of my children—and how we came to be—isn’t lost on me either.

I’d share some of her great tidbits, except they’re mine, all mine! Just kidding—but I am out of space. I’ll have to be content to leave you with one line.

Under “What is your best advice about life?” my grandma writes: Living a kind and considerate life is better than being obsessed with becoming rich.

The advice is all the more meaningful because I saw how she lived and lives. She embodies kindness and consideration. But, sheesh, her words do make me wonder if she knows about my predilection for treasure and meant to warn me. In case anyone’s worried, don’t be. My obsession with treasure has never been a lust for wealth. It’s always adventure I covet. In her journal, I have both.

“Treasure!” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 25, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

Beware the Audience!

I’ve been writing for a long while now, and over the past twelve years, I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of my words go to print.

Knowing that I will have at least a few readers is almost entirely wonderful. I always dreamed of sharing my stories, so as corny as it is, every time I’m published, it’s a bit of a dream come true. It’s inspiring—At least one person (the editor!) feels my thoughts are worthy of being read . . . It’s motivating—Oh, rats. I can’t watch The Office Season 3 all day and night again. My fill-in-the-blank-with-current-project is due. (Deadlines = this writer’s best friend.)

There is a downside to knowing you have an audience, though—and it’s a sneaky one, one I hadn’t known I was affected by until yesterday when I was journaling about the past year. I was mid-scribble in my private notebook, when I realized I was holding back, just a bit. I was writing about the parts of my life readers might be interested in, instead of all the myopic navel gazing stuff that’s only important to me.

I was candid. I whined. But I was candid, politely. I whined only in a philosophical, interesting way, not in a full out temper-tantrum-brat way (and I wish it was because I’m more inclined to be philosophical and interesting than beastly, but no, that’s not it at all).

I found myself editing my thoughts before I spilled them, consciously choosing a synonym if I’d just used the word I was about to scrawl down.

And it hit me—Beware the Audience! Don’t let the fact that you might have readers keep you from saying what you need to say. It is crucial to get what you’re thinking, feeling, observing out on the page in the ugliest, most uncensored way. And likewise, sometimes you just need to spill Pollyannaish clichés of joy and happiness out in ink.

Writers who want to share stories, poems, ideas, and thoughts with others have to consider their audience. (Hello, Punctuation and Word Choice. Greetings, Grammar Conventions! Good-bye, Incoherent Ranting. See ya, Said-that-twenty-times-already-aren’t-you-over-it-already. Put on a towel, Too-much-information-girl.)

However, writers who want to have stories, poems, ideas and thoughts to share must have times when they completely ignore the possibility of there ever being a reader. They have to write things that make them cringe, things that they burn, literally, once they’re out on the page. Or at least I need to.

I have to get out the junk, so that the things I really wonder and care about are freed from the mire of everyday stuff. The process is akin to wading into my closet and weeding through a whole bunch of things that are out of season, that I want to keep but don’t wear anymore, that I’m holding onto for someone else, to get the one item that’s perfect for right now.

I’d love to hear thoughts on this topic. Does thinking about potential readers freeze you or inspire you? Can (should!) a writer ever fully forget the possibility of an audience?