One of my clients, who has now become someone I like to think of as a friend, asked me this question when we were chatting online.
“What made you become a writer?”
This, I’ve found, is a topic that comes up a lot in writing groups across the social media board. So I thought it warranted a blog post.
I can remember the exact day that I started actually writing. It was the morning of my tenth birthday, and after repeated dreams of changing the ending to my favorite movie, I decided that it would almost be like changing the movie if I were in fact to rewrite the ending.
Of course, I never actually rewrote anything about the movie. But I started writing a short story that a year or two later I realized very closely resembled Harry Potter, and I couldn’t keep going with it. Instead, I ended up working on a supremely high-fantasy “book”, I called it, that revolved around fairies.
I don’t write about fairies now, and haven’t since I was eleven, but the point is that I realized I could create my own realities simply by putting it down on paper. That realization brought me over 200 words of Word document pages before I turned twelve. And I finished my first novel in high school five years later.
So I shared this “aha moment” of becoming a writer with my friend, and he sent me an amazing description of what he considered to be the turning point in his life that led him to calling himself a writer. And he agreed to let me share that story here.
‘I would say that it was a fear of death, or rather the fear of leading a life of no consequence or significance. From a very young age as early as six I was terrified of the idea of dying. I spent far longer than any child should spend contemplating ways to cheat death and live forever. Eventually I came to the acceptance that I would one day die so I wanted to leave something behind that was not subject to the laws of flesh and blood. For most I think that the concept of a legacy is a family, and while not opposed to such a notion I wanted to accomplish more with my limited time than simply perpetuating the circle of life. I chased fame for a while, a long while. I fixated on pursuing acting and movie stardom. That seemed like a good way to cement something that would last past my own mortality. From age thirteen and for a full decade after that I trained in film, theater and stage. Sadly it never went anywhere while I had natural talents for drama I did not have the drive to push myself to past the point where things became difficult.
I suffered from a terminal case of entitlement, thinking that I was above paying my dues as a starving artist. Life continued to happen. Life also continued to be unremarkable. I spent so much time leaning on others hoping to ride their coat tails to loftier station that I squandered a lot of potential. It was after a life-altering trauma that my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I endured that I soon decided that I would no longer pin my success on others. I refocused my efforts and took stock of what I could do to accomplish something extraordinary. As much as I loathed writing in grade school and battled for every word on an assigned paper, I settled on writing. It was a place where I could bring the full weight of my creativity and imagination to bear, and I had nobody else that I had to depend on to produce something. It was just me, a pen and a blank page. I found that notion very comforting.
I set myself the goal of being able to say “I am a published author,” and I made a plan to attain that goal. I started writing a couple poems a day and four hundred words rain or shine and then in the month of November in the Year 2012 I published “Modern Knighthood”. Ultimately that book was for me. So that I could break off a little piece of forever for myself.’
That book of poetry, “Diary of a Warrior Poet” by Jason Pere, can be found here.
I found myself needing to respond in kind to his very open-hearted explanation of his own experiences. And so I chose to delve a little deeper, bring myself up to speed on what my relationship with writing looked like so I could share it. This is what I came up with.
‘Don’t get me wrong, my relationship with writing was not, by any means, all fun and games and passion from 10 years old to now. I just recently, in the last year and a half, have returned to that consuming passion. There was a 5 year hiatus there, two of which were spent in seemingly tearing apart and destroying my own life at every opportunity, and three in picking up the pieces, putting myself back together, and guilt-tripping myself into actually believing that, because I deviated from my plans and chose destruction instead, I no longer deserved to call myself a writer. There was a point in there where I was so terrified that if I picked up the proverbial pen again I wouldn’t even be able to do it anymore, that I had abandoned and consequently lost that “zone space” that had been my fuel and my companion all through high school and the years of college for Creative Writing.
I’d really done a number on myself, and though I thought about writing constantly, wanted to more than anything in the world, that fear kept me back for way longer than I like to admit. I had to quit my job waiting tables in Charleston due to a chronic injury thing, and then I went through this whole thing of “I’m married, my husband wants to support me (and can) so I can write, this is the first time in my life that I’m not working and don’t HAVE to, and I totally don’t deserve to use this time to write.” I finally got over that, turned an odd experimental short story into what’s currently being written of my third novel, and then started my business.
I started calling myself a writer again before I even was able to type a single word after those five years, but the fact that nobody questioned the validity of my claim or my love for what I considered myself to be gave me a whole new freedom in letting myself actually pursue it again. That and a thought that occurred, almost literally, like a lightening bolt – My worth is not defined by whether or not I do the things I think I should.
That drive is the same for us all, though, those of us who say we’re writers and actually believe it really deep down. It just takes a while to be able to say it, to take ourselves seriously in a much less serious way.’
I’d like to hear what you think. What made you become a writer? And maybe more importantly, what’s standing in the way of you becoming a writer right now?