Why Did You Decide to Become a Writer?

I'm playing around with a new character, whose life is defined by the books she reads.  And this has made
Everystockphoto_205924_m me ponder how intertwined my life is with the books I read.

I refer to characters from books I've read in my brain all the time, sometimes learning from their actions, or using what they do as a cautionary tale.  I remember incidents from memoirs and learn helpful nuggets for daily life from spiritual books. 

What makes books so amazing for me is the power they have to transport me to another world, to plop me down in a completely different setting and make me feel like I'm walking around in a new location.  Even good cookbooks can do this for me, like the latest one I'm using, which has me inhabiting a cattle ranch in Oklahoma.

What I've also been thinking about is how being an avid reader has made me who I am today, ie, a writer.  Because from the earliest time I can remember, I thought this ability of the written word to transport me to a new world was magical.  And I wanted me some of that magic for my own.  Since I was a teeny, tiny girl, I wanted to be a writer.  And that all stemmed from my love of reading.

Sometimes in my travels I run into people who want to be writers but never read.  Um, really?  C'mon.  You have to read in order to learn to write, to see how other people put words together on the page so they make sense.  To see how they compose a scene, to learn how to write dialogue.

But beyond all that, I can't even imagine a world in which reading and writing are not linked.  In which the desire to be a writer doesn't stem from an avid reading habit.  Can you? 

If you can, please tell me about it, I'm all ears.

No matter where your desire to write comes from, I'd love to hear about it.  What's your earliest memory of wanting to be a writer?  Of the magic of reading?

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10 Responses to Why Did You Decide to Become a Writer?

  1. Denise Mitchell 06/08/2010 at 13:52 #

    In my earliest memory of wanting to be a writer, I am about five years old and I’m on one of those swings that is like a frisbee with a rope attached to the middle. My head is tilted back, I’m looking up at the sky and it is blue and orange and pink and the clouds are thick, voluptuous and iridescent. It is the first time I understand what people are talking about when they say, “the sky is beautiful.” I feel happy for the first time in a long time. Then everything starts to change, the clouds move and thin out, the sun sinks lower and the sky turns more purple. It is no less beautiful, but I’m terrified. My instinctive solution is to write about it, that for me the only way to keep anything good or to deal with strong emotion is through writing. I think this must be because even at that age, books had already become such a source of comfort.

  2. Charlotte Dixon 06/08/2010 at 16:45 #

    Oh, Denise, I love that memory. And what a gorgeous description, it was clearly and indelible moment for you to be able to write about it so well as an adult.

  3. Jessica 06/08/2010 at 17:29 #

    I don’t remember ever not wanting to be a writer. Which is strange, now that I think back on it, because neither of my parents were writers. But I formed an intense bond with paper and my father’s typewriter.

    I also loved the idea that I could entertain myself. There was no reason to be bored because I could come up with my own stories. Who needed TV? I had my imagination. I was a storyteller long before I could read or write. But then I wonder if any of that had to do with the quality of books I was read as a baby…

  4. Charlotte Dixon 06/08/2010 at 22:03 #

    Jessica, That is so cool that you never remember anything other than wanting to be a writer. What kind of books were you read as a baby? They must have been high quality to inspire such a love of, and confidence in, your storytelling.

  5. Jessica 06/09/2010 at 02:38 #

    I remember ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle along with two books called ‘I See’ and ‘I Hear’ but I can’t remember who wrote those. I had a number of Little Golden Books which were read to me over and over.

    And of course there were Beatrix Potter books, especially Jemima Puddle-Duck and Mrs Tiggy Winkle. I loved Beatrix Potter and even got to visit Hill Top when I was 4. Perhaps that’s the seed that started it all.

  6. Derek 06/09/2010 at 01:23 #

    I think at heart that I have always been a dreamer – one of my first school reports home opened with the words, “Derek the Dreamer”. I got a lot of stick from my parents on that one!

    Having two older sisters who taught me to read, long before I started going to school. Hence, I was always reading books and that I think would trigger my day-dreaming in the classroom, especially in the “boring” lessons.

    I went to a writing workshops with the local uni. about 20 years ago because I wanted to write a book about my experiences as a therapist and Zen practitioner but ended up attending those workshops for about 5 years. I found myself slipping back into the dream world as I got more and more involved with fictional writing and listening to the stories of other writing students. I did write my book but never really tried to get it published, but have used most of it as inspiration for my websites and blogs.

  7. J.D. 06/09/2010 at 07:33 #

    I became a writer when I was in praebyrthium, a place we linger before we come into the world–sort of the opposite of purgatory. I was in a long line waiting to enter the Renaissance Theatre. Bored with the wait, people danced on the cobbled street, turned cartwheels, acted silly. But a hush fell over the group as we neared the door. Henchmen prodded us through in blocks of forty and herded us into the orchestral pit. We huddled there under the threat of having our DNA pulled out one strand at a time if we so much as made a peep. Like cattle, we were singled out and ordered onstage. When my turn came, they shoved me, causing me to trip on the stairs. I gained my feet and found myself facing St. Cajetan, the patron saint of job seekers. His arms hung straight by his sides, weighed with the chains of labor still shackled to his wrists. His cloak, moth eaten and worn thin as a web, hadn’t been off him in six hundred years. He had long since lost enthusiasm for his job. Drudgery pulled at his face like syrup creeping down a table leg. They pushed me to a white line where the saint stood. He handed me a single dart. A gorgeous woman, the spitting image of Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke, stood by THE wheel in a frilly corset. At his nod, she gave it a spin. My head bobbed as I followed the segments: knitter, priest, herbalist . . . . I couldn’t make a choice. The wheel seemed to gain speed and I didn’t fancy myself as much of a dartist anyway. Saint Cajetan, impatient to say the least, found new strength in his anger and raised his hands along with the massive chains. I saw a huge revolver which he placed at my temple. “Throw the #@%$$#^#^& dart,” he screamed. Startled, I gave it a blind fling at the wheel. The baubles on Miss Kitty’s costume made a click which I mistook for the trigger and fainted on the spot. They drug me away. When I came to, I was propped against the back wall of the Renaissance Theatre. Refuse was strewn about and puddles of liquids I didn’t care to speculate on. Across my chest was a sticker. I craned to read the inverted scrawl: Writer. At the end of the alley there was sunlight. I pushed myself upright and staggered toward my birth. And that’s how I became–well–a writer.

  8. Charlotte Dixon 06/09/2010 at 15:43 #

    Derek the Dreamer, I think that is an excellent moniker for a writer and I’m glad you wrote your book.

    Jessica, I love those little golden books! And how cool that you visited Hill Top.

    Oh, J.D., you win the prize. Not sure what the prize is, but you win it. Great story. Are you sure you’re not a science fiction writer?

  9. Jane Rutherford 06/13/2010 at 07:34 #

    Reading has made me a better writer. I know, I’m not discovering anything new with that statement. But it’s true. I read a lot. Fiction, non fiction, essays analyzing my fav books and fanfics and characters. It gives me that extra insight into what makes the story click. It allows me to learn.

    But most of all: it inspires me. But I don’t get inspires by single paragraphs or characters. I get inspired by entire universes other writers create. Those worlds show me what can be done and how to do it so it still works. It challenges me to create my own worlds and introduce them to the readers.

  10. Charlotte Dixon 06/13/2010 at 11:04 #

    Jane, I love that you get say you get inspired by entire worlds. It makes me stop and think about what draws me into a novel and it is exactly that–the world the author creates. I think its the same with writing a novel, too. What keeps me motivated to stick with a long project is being in love with the world.

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