I used to think that I couldn’t be a writer because I didn’t have a childhood full of notebook scribbling and books illustrated with crayons. I didn’t write stories until I was in college, and those certainly left something to be desired.
I’m also not one of those people who reads books all the way straight through. I have books strung out behind me in varying degrees of unfinishedness and many stay that way forever.
And I’m not an exceptionally adept grammarian, so there’s that.
So imagine my surprise when one day I woke up and realized that I was a writer. There were none of the signs, and yet, here I am.
It was important for me to let go of all of those ideas that I had about what it means to be a real writer. I hadn’t been training since childhood under my covers with a flashlight, and I wasn’t going to stumble into the field as a journalist or accomplished line editor. I love to read, but rarely in a straight line.
But I do love words—not so much vocabulary and lists and spelling—but the power locked up in unuttered words to describe the ways that we live and feel our lives.
And writing, it found me.
During a particularly turbid bout of change, I started thinking about an experience, one that challenged what I thought I knew and left me a little unglued at the edges. Every night when I laid my head on the pillow, I’d string those words together into blurry sentences and gauzy paragraphs until I fell asleep only to repeat the next night.
All this brain writing led to excessive tossing and a husband who lovingly encouraged me to go write everything down so that we could both get some sleep.
That was my first book. It’s still on my shelf. It’s personal and waiting.
But it was the push that I needed to know that I could write.
And the rest, as they don’t say, is my present and hopefully my future.
I write and teach writing and think about writing pretty much everyday. And people pay me to do it, which is pretty cool. But there are plenty of days when I still wonder how the words find me. Maybe that is the point. Maybe we write when we are ready, when we give up. When we let our experiences leak out in black and white. I’m still not quite sure how it works, and despite all the mystery and a complete inability to correctly use a relative pronoun, I am, for the most part, one happy writer.
When did you know that you were a writer? Did you have all the signs from childhood or was it an unexpected journey? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.