Sometimes people ask me when and how I knew I was going to be a writer. The world always says, “Start when you’re young,” about anything creative, and I did. I knew I was going to be a writer when I realized how much I loved books and reading. By the age of 9 (considered rather old in the creative arts) I was totally drawn into that world.
I didn’t really enjoy reading the “schoolgirl-at-boarding school” books that well-meaning relatives occasionally sent me. But they were books, and I loved to cradle books in my arms. The books I really liked to read were at our small town library, and after much encouragement from her sister, my mother finally decided I wouldn’t catch some dreadful disease from borrowing public books. That’s how I became the official bookworm of the family! Hint: Use your public library!
We had a heavy homework load from our academic British high school, most of which wasn’t my style. I made an exception for foreign language classes, though they lost their purpose when the careers counselor told me women couldn’t be translators. Mostly, I wanted to read my own choice of books, about travel, animals, mysteries, and much more.
Making Up Stories
Even that wasn’t enough for me, so I made up my own stories. I would sit on the front doorstep, reading children’s books to the neighbors’ blonde three-year-old daughter. Every now and then, I added something extra to the story. Today’s children wouldn’t let me get away with that. Even at an early age, they memorize their books and know every word that’s in them!
I also played shadow puppets on the bedroom wall when the streetlamps were lit. My younger sister and I were supposed to be asleep but I created a lot of stories for her about the characters. Of course, many of them seemed to have long, furry ears. Growing into my teen years, I wove stories based on movies (especially the musicals) and TV westerns for my two close girlfriends from high school. I told those tales as we hiked through the countryside, often looking for new wildflowers to press and keep in our wildflower albums.
Writing for Publication
My first commercial article was published during my teen years and it was about creating a pressed wildflower album. That was absolute confirmation for me that I was indeed going to be a writer. As so often happens, of course, that first publication was followed by many rejections of other articles by editors who obviously didn’t share my taste in topics. Discouragement can set in when faced with that, though in my 20s and 30s, I had much more success. And I’ve kept on writing!
Writers write, even when they’re not sure whether they have readers or not. If you’re writing only for the applause you hope to get, you’ve set yourself up for a goodly amount of pain. It’s pretty nice to have a tribe but not absolutely necessary. In fact, you’ll be a better writer if you ruffle a few feathers now and then.