Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, writing-related question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: When did you know that you were a writer? Was there one event or a Bermudian series of events that made it clear to you (if no one else) that you were a writer? Or did it creep up on you over several months, even years?
Jamie Wallace: When I was young, I didn’t feel the need to call myself “writer.” It wasn’t something I did. It was just part of who I was. I wrote all the time on all kinds of topics – my personal thoughts, what I did, nature, dreams, poetry. As I grew older and walked out into the world where not only things, but also people must be given labels, I did not dare to call myself “writer.” I did not feel that my scribblings (no matter how prolific) in composition and spiral-bound notebooks qualified me to carry such a lofty title. To me, a “writer” was someone who wrote published novels and gave interviews to NPR, the New York Times, and Oprah. I was not a writer. I cannot define one single event or moment that imbued me with the courage to call myself that. It’s a quiet resolve that has slowly strengthened over the years. Being able to “publish” online via blogs has certainly made a big difference. It gave me the chance to put my work in front of other people. Maybe that was the thing, in my head at least, that defined a “real” writer – being read. If so, blogging and other forms of digital publishing have surely been responsible for the evolution of many a writer. Today, I call myself a writer without hesitation. Though it is not the whole story of who I am and what I do, it is at the core of how I exist in the world. And, after all these years, that’s good enough for me.
Lisa J. Jackson: I believe it was 6th grade when a story I wrote made an impression on some teachers and I was one of a few students who got to visit a local college. I really don’t remember any details, just the bliss and joy I felt at having my writing acknowledged in a way that has (obviously) stuck with me all these years. Visiting a college at such a young age, meeting students pursing writing as a career…it was fantastic. My writing talent was something I had to nurture on my own outside of the home and I am extremely proud of all my accomplishments to date. Each new piece I write, no matter if it’s for work or for myself, always makes me smile.
Diane MacKinnon: I feel like I always knew I was a writer–then I forgot. Between med school and residency and then the busyness of life after all that, I pushed that part of myself very deep. As a child and young adult, I accepted myself as a writer. It was just something I did. Getting to know that part of myself again over the last 10 years has been an amazing and joyful experience. Back at the beginning of my rediscovery of my joy in writing, I took a memoir writing class with Denis Ledoux (he wrote Turning Memories Into Memoir: A Handbook for Writing Lifestories) and I was terrified to read one of my “stories” to the class. After I read it out loud, Denis said it wasn’t a story, it was just a scene (which was true.) Part of me sat up and said “I’ll show you a story!” and I was off, writing story after story. Now I call myself a writer because I write and because it’s one of my favorite things to do, think about, talk about–well, you get the idea!
Deborah Lee Luskin: I’m the third of four children; the other three are boys. It was a noisy family, and sexist in the way families formed in the 1950′s unconsciously were. No matter how loudly I spoke (or yelled), it seemed as if no one listened until I cried, and then I was dismissed for being a cry-baby/girl. So I started writing to be “heard.” It worked.
Julie Hennrikus: Boy, is this a complicated question. Though I’ve written for years, it was later that I called myself a writer. But even now, with my third short story about to be published, I still don’t own the label. But I don’t even remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer, or to write.
Susan Nye: As a liberal arts major and then a teacher and marketer, writing was just something I did. Writing was a means to an end; not the end itself. Writing was a means to share my research, to communicate a progress report, to promote my company’s products and, when I started my own business, my own services.
I figured writing was something that everyone did. When I started to manage other people, I realized that I was better at it than most. But I never considered myself a writer. Writers were special, incredibly smart and talented people. Anyone who read as much as I do knew that!
And then one day, my life took a turn. The tail decided it was time to wag the dog. A family friend read one of my newsletters – a soft-sell promotion piece for my catering business. Her response … Susan – you should publish. You are a really good cook but you are a wonderful writer. I will never forget those words and the way Jane pronounced the word WONderful, like my little story was something very special.
I wrote a few more newsletters and a couple of months later sent my three favorites to the editor of my local paper. Within days I was the food columnist for four newspapers (my local paper was part of a group). Committing to a weekly column when I’d written maybe five stories was either crazy, naive, foolish or just plain dumb. I had no idea if I could keep it up. Yesterday I sent in number three hundred and six.
Writing for the newspaper gave me confidence and made me think maybe I could be a writer. The editor, her publisher, friends, neighbors and strangers said nice things about my work. A few months later I queried half a dozen magazines … and got three writing gigs. That’s when I knew I was a writer.