Saturday, January 17, 2009


When did you know? I want to write. I want to be a writer. What was the day? Was it something specific?

Something Damon said in one of the other threads made me think about this, about my own epiphanies about writing, about the desire to do this wondrous strange thing. For me, once I started reading I think I started wanting to write. Back in grade school I started writing fantasy stories. Novels, really. I'd write chapter one, and maybe two, and then the grand story would taper off after twenty or thirty pages. But the desire never left.

By grade seven and eight I was able to hold through a little better, and tried to find ways to make all my school projects into stories. Deadlines helped little Ink finish his word contraptions. A fantasy story about the false satisfaction of revenge, a dinosaur tale, a vampire vs. werewolf story in childhood suburbia... Writing stories was becoming a part of me, though much of this was still unconscious and unacknowledged. Subsumed beneath the surface, perhaps, but the hidden desires were there. Story...

By the end of high school I think I knew in a more serious way. No OAC (fifth year) math or sciences. But lots of English courses. And I wrote some things that people seemed to like, that made them look at me a little differently. I decided what my major was going to be at University: Creative Writing. This is what I wanted, to write stories. Unpractical, yes, but what the hell? Hey, I had hair down my back and wore loose jeans and unbuttoned plaid shirts. Grunge, man. I certainly wasn't thinking about becoming an accountant (or the owner of a bookstore, for that matter).

University only confirmed the desire. And, what's more, I started to get a lot better. In fourth year I remember a sort of vague epiphany as things came together: "Oh, this is how you do it..." Grad school was a chance to take that feeling, that sudden understanding, and put it to good use. It was time to write and see if I could really do it in a serious, prolonged way. Not just meeting a deadline, an assignment here or there. But to write seriously, daily. To write a novel and see if I could actually do what I always wanted to do.

Learning that I could do this made me think that, yes, I could be a writer. Yes, I would be a writer. I would do it or die trying.

And here I am, still trying, still not dead. So what about you? How'd the writing bug hit you? Early? Late? When did you know?


Sarah Jensen said...

For me, I've always written. Mostly poems. A few stage plays or movie scripts along the way. The longest averaging 20 pages.
But August 07 the bug returned and this time took hold. As I read a book, another story played in my head, and so I wrote it down. The story was long and fluffed with lots of back story, but I've whittled it down to a pretty good tale. With a little more cropping, I will query agents.
That's how I started the second time. At the age of 34.

Wanu said...

I dunno, I remember being very young, probably like six years old, one of those abstract memories with little to ground it to, and my mum said, "Why don't you write a story?" Looking back, I guess she meant just something to do, keep me out of trouble for half an hour, but this idea took hold, big time. I didn't want to write 'a story' I wanted to write a book, and sell millions of copies.

Stories came and went, and school teachers were always enthusiastic. I remember 'people' - the teachers, my mum, talking about a Mr Men story that I wrote, I mean, they really went on about it. My spelling was brilliant, just came naturally, and I stopped using a dictionary by the age of nine. I only really went back to it recently to pick up the exact meanings of words.

In Secondary (high school equivalent) my English teacher treated me like a 'story writer', always with advice on how I could develop as an author. I didn't really appreciate this, in its entirety, at the time, but with critique and such, I sometimes realise, 'crikey, that's what Miss Ellis was trying to tell me... she must've taken my stories a lot more seriously than I thought.'

They were pretty good, too, I've still got my English folder and the stories, and they ain't bad.

I got bored in a free period at school one time and began to write a fantasy which was analogous to the school and the people in it.

That thing grew, over the course of years, to be about 80K long. It's actually a work of tripe, but I guess my first complete novel.

Then I wrote a three-novel Doctor Who epic, which is pretty good, but the TV characters keep changing and I can't keep up. I lack the motivation to alter everything and insert new characters, so its been left sitting around forever.

Actually, I think when Doctor Who came back on telly, and I looked at my tatty manuscript for an epic adventure, I got a big shove, like a 'times change, tastes change, you should keep on top of this writing lark and go for it'.

A little while later I slugged out Bulletproof Scooter and joined FM to get crit on it. I've written dozens of short stories, another novel, and started yet another novel since then. Getting to grips with the craft has really focused me.

In some ways, I think writing is the only thing that I'm good at. Dunno, it seems to have always been there, but turning around and embracing it properly is the thing that has taken time.

Damon Lord said...

Despite thinking early on that I could be a writer, it took a few years for me to actually take up my pen, at about age seven, when I started creating my own comics. They were rubbish, so I started writing at about nine, encouraged to do so by a teacher, when I'd finally silenced my inner editor. I wrote for the love it, and eventual publication was only barely at the back of my mind.

Bookworm1605 said...

I've been a voracious reader from the time I was a wee booklarva and as long as I can remember I've thought of myself as a writer. As a young-un, though, most of my attempts at writing weren't much more that imagery and chaotic scenes loosely strung together.

Somehow my writing is inextricably connected to music. I grew up in a family full of musicians who attempted to 'make it' and essentially failed. As a result, it was drilled into me (the oldest son) that I wouldn't mess with that artsy fartsy foolishness. I'd go to college and get a real job, etc...

And so I did.

Then one day at the ripe old age of thirty six, I decided to buy a guitar. I taught myself to play and even jammed in a band with my younger brothers, who are both musical savants. Not long after that the floodgates opened and I started writing. I wrote my first complete story about a month before I joined FM in Feb of 2007. Since that time I've written over a dozen short stories and formulated a plan to write a novel.

It's odd really, this defining of oneself. I guess I've always thought of myself as a writer even though I've only been physically writing the last couple of years. It's like there's two dimensions to 'being' a writer. On one hand there's the physical act of writing on a regular basis. On the other, there is this state of mental awareness--of simply being...a writer.

Someone once said, "I write, therefore I am...a writer."

Speaking of being a writer, isn't it time we came up with a new name for ourselves? I mean, most of us don't actually write anymore do we? We type.

I know, I know. Some folks still write longhand. But the vast majority of writers are actually typers. The term 'write' only describes the physical act of putting thoughts together with characters we call letters that form sentences and paragraphs, etc. It's semantics, I know, and I know some of you old-schoolers are going to be reluctant to give up the age old moniker of 'writer' but, I make a motion that from hence forward, we call ourselves:


OK, maybe creators, with a little 'c' so as not to offend.


Because that's what we do. Right?

OK. Enough, already. I'll crawl back under my rock.

Heidi C. Vlach said...

I've always known that I was pretty good at writing stories, and everyone I've ever known has supported creativity. As a kid I'd just sit down with a journal or at the computer (back when computers were a Big Deal) and spin meandering, plotless original ... things. I kept them on my computer hard drive, and that was it. Writing was easy and didn't seem to merit any existential thought on whether to do it.

Then, as a young teenager, I came across fanfiction on the Internet. It seemed like a very natural extension of storywriting to write hypothetical stories for your favourite TV show/video game/book canon. And people were getting attention for it! So I started exploring ideas for myself, and that went over well. I thought of fan-made characters for other people's franchises, and just didn't use them.

When I had enough spin-off content in my head that it started congealing into something original, I began writing backstory and character info for my novel. That kind of surprised me. I was never one to plan my stories. But as I started writing the first chapter of my first novel, I decided that I wanted to do big things, and I've never looked back from that.

I think I've considered myself a writer since putting up that first Pokemon short story online when I was thirteen. Before that, I was a kid who happened to write stories. Writing for an interested audience is what made the difference, I guess. I just began to focus on writing things with actual literary merit, that would interest other people as much as they interested me.

And I've considered myself a novelist since completing my first book. Lack of publishing credit? Pah, details!

Ink said...

I have this feeling that most writers, whether they start actively writing very young or very old, usually have a sense of Story from the beginning. Whether they articulate it on paper or not, the stories are inside. Some might have them on a fast boil, overflowing the pot, while others might have them slowly percolating for a decade or two. But it seems that from the start there's been that sense of narrative, that sense of an interesting world astride our own.

What do you think? Do I need a slap for presumption?

Lauren said...

I agree with Ink--I think that most writers have had this creative thing inside of them for a long time. I used to make up these bizarre elaborate "games" that were basically plays with some ad-libing or I would come up with stories to tell my friends. They were Ghost stories or Faerie Tales, mostly. I guess that is why I grew up to be a (hopeful) fantasy writer.

Sarah Jensen said...

I agree with Ink as well. I first acted my stories, putting on plays and musicals for my poor family, acting them alone in my room. They've always been there. Now I actually put them to paper. (okay, computer)