Friday Fun – Were you always good at writing?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: So, you’re a writer now, but were you always good at writing? Were you a straight-A student in English class? Did you study writing in college? Or, were you a late bloomer who never expected to learn to love this crazy craft?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I always loved reading and writing and I did well in English class–I love grammar. In college, I took more science classes than English classes, but I read all the books my roommate brought home to read for her classes–she was an English major. Between college and medical school I helped edit a textbook (Nadas’ Pediatric Cardiology) while working at Boston Children’s Hospital, then got a job editing articles and books at the Orthopedic Research Lab at Columbia, in NYC. Then I went to medical school and I stopped writing, except in my journal. While I read and studied medicine, I never gave up reading for pleasure, even if it was for 5 minutes before bed or during a 10 minute subway ride.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30’s that I started writing again, and realized I still carried my childhood dream of being a writer. I started very slowly, and I’m still not writing full-time, but it’s a part of my daily life and I’m so grateful. I plan to keep reading and writing and learning for as long as I can.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I started writing at a young age, with those cute diaries with small locks and keys. I wrote my own stories during grade school and got ‘validation’ in 5th grade when a story I wrote won some type of contest that allowed me to attend a college campus for a day. That was so thrilling. I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a writer and in high school I wrote for the high school paper. Writing wasn’t a career supported by my family, so I dove into business classes, but always wrote on the side – I even loved creating my own business case studies, and when I started working I always rewrote processes (because they needed to be improved!)

I didn’t major or focus on English classes until I was going after my second master’s degree – that’s when I focused on literature and writing – where I hoped to narrow my writing interests down to one genre. That idea backfired and I found new genres I enjoyed – TV scriptwriting, writing for children, news writing,, technical writing, poetry…every writing class I took would have me saying “Oh, wow, I love this!”

I journal every day, but my fiction has taken a back burner and my muse it getting quite agitated, so that will change quite soon! I can’t live comfortably when the muse is constantly pushing at my gray matter.

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

I’m an only daughter with three brothers, and I started writing in order to be heard. Because I had so little voice at the dinner table, I learned to articulate my thoughts on paper. Over a life-time, I’ve become better and better at this.



JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I have loved stories, reading, and writing for as long as I can remember. Some of my fondest memories are of whole days spent squirreled away somewhere with a book. Whether my hideaway was a blanket fort, a nook at the foot of my childhood bed, or the boughs of a tree, I loved getting lost in other worlds, exploring a boundless world of possibilities simply by reading ink on a page.

Though I didn’t think of myself as a “writer” until much later in life, I began journaling at the age of seven. I also recorded my dreams and wrote really bad poetry. I never had any real inhibitions about either writing or sharing my writing. It was always just a natural part of being me. I carried notebooks around and scribbled my thoughts about everything and nothing. In school, I didn’t stand out as the “class writer” or anything like that, but I had an aptitude for the language arts that earned me praise and encouragement from my teachers.

My one year at Boston College did not include any writing classes. In fact, I almost went to a visual arts college – Parsons in New York. My creative focus in those early years was more on illustration and photography. Writing had, I think, become such an integral part of my identity that it kind of disappeared … fell off my conscious radar. It wasn’t until I was nearing the end of my fourteen-year marriage at the age of thirty-eight that I extended my journal writing (which I’d kept up all those thirty some odd years) into a blog. That was when I began to realize that maybe I was, actually, a writer.

It’s funny the way our paths wind through life on such a circuitous route, but inevitably take us to the place we were headed to all along. I sometimes wonder if my writing life would be different (read: “better,” whatever that means) if I’d pursued it more directly earlier in life, if I’d been more aware, consistent, and dedicated from the start. I’ll never know now, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What matters is not the words I didn’t write yesterday, but the words I write today.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: I was one of those kids who always wrote stories. Fortunately, I showed a little bit of talent and I had teachers who encouraged me (that was HUGE!)

In the fourth grade, I won first place in a poetry contest with my poem that started off with:

EL Blanco was a pony wild and free

His mother was a stallion, the same as he.

Clearly at that point, biology wasn’t my strong suit.

I always seemed to take an outside view of any assignment. When given an assignment in 6th grade to write about war, I wrote about the personal agony of the pilot who (in my story anyway) unknowingly dropped the atom bomb on Japan. I had him struggling with his guilt by smoking cigarettes, drinking, and being in a depression (although at the time, I didn’t understand that’s what I was describing.)

A Christmas assignment had me writing from the abandoned-on-the-curve-no-longer-needed Christmas tree’s point of view.

I’m not sure I was any more talented as a writer than my peers, but I did seem to have a knack for writing outside the box and THANK GOD my teachers saw that as something to be applauded instead of something that needed to be squelched.

46 thoughts on “Friday Fun – Were you always good at writing?

  1. I was a better writer than I was anything else but I chose to be a scientist. I figured out I could always write besides doing science but it wouldn’t work the other way round. I never dared to choose 😀

  2. Was always writer – with pictures, in school kids (and teachers) always had me read my assignments to the class first. I won small contests throughout school. But no one ever told me you could make money writing, so it got shoved to the back burner – until people started wanting me to write the marketing pieces, the trainings handouts and scripts, and bosses stated asking me to edit and write for them. Then there were suddenly many forks in the road. Since then been involved with writing, editing, and publishing for a delightful time. Finally now, there’s time to go back to write all those stories.

    • Sounds like we have similar stories about the epiphany that, “Hey, wait! You mean I can make a living doing this?” 😉 It took me a while to figure that out, and a while longer to work up the courage to make it happen, but I’m so glad I finally got to where I am today. Even if the marketing writing I do is not feeding my soul, it’s feeding my and my daughter’s bellies … and I’m going to make sure the stories don’t stay on that back burner too much longer! 😉

      • My parents lived through the Great Depression and shoved their kids towards what (Mom) thought was “safe” in bad times. Really not a good match for me. It took a while, but slipped in the back door and rediscovered writing – and I was ready to do any kind of writing as it was so much more fun – and seemed so easy to do. Marketing isn’t so bad – problem solving getting people and ideas/products together. Pays the bills – and make it possible to do other things outside of that.Your daughters are lucky – you know you can show them to recognize what they love to do and to have the courage to go do it. Things do work out.

      • Ironically, both my parents have been self-employed for the majority of their lives, and yet I still felt for some reason that I had to choose a “safe” career. (As if there were such a thing!)

        I agree that marketing isn’t so bad, especially these days with the huge growth of social media and content marketing driving brands toward more authentic, useful, and creative relationships with their customers. I do like the problem-solving aspect of it as well.

        And, finally, YES! I love that I’m able to set an example for my daughter, showing her that there is more than one way to make a living and find your way. At eleven years-old, she already has her own business walking dogs, and I’ll tell you … some days she has more in her savings account than I have in mine! 😉

  3. As a child, I was a writer. I wrote book after book (and my dad has kept them all these years). I was blessed with wonderful teachers in grade school who saw my natural talent and encouraged me to pursue and improve on my writing. English class was always my favorite and I love to proofreading my own writing as well as others’ work. I stopped writing creatively in college. I was plenty busy writing other class papers, which I usually earned a high grade. Freshman year I switched my college major from journalism to communications. My thinking was to go more broad because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do “when I grew up.” I am 31 years old now, married with three young kids. I want to write again! I set my pen down for so many years, but it is back in my hand now and it feels good! I enjoy working on my new blog Write On. (Stay-at-Home Mom finding the time for Creative Writing). Thank you for sharing your stories Diane, Lisa, and M. Shafer. You are inspiring to me.

    • I published my bit in the post a bit after it went live, but I just wanted to say that I was only a few years older than you when I first started blogging. My daughter was almost two years-old, and I was a stay-at-home mom (at least for a little while, until my divorce). I don’t know what your experience has been, but I found that becoming a mom inspired me to write more frequently and more authentically than I had in a long time. Being a mom makes everything suddenly so real, and I think that made me want to sink my teeth into the experience.

      Thanks for stopping by to share. 🙂

  4. I was very lucky as a child in that I had a number of friends, family members, teachers and classmates who supported my dream of becoming a writer. One day while I was doing my homework, I heard a really bad ad on the radio and said, “I could write a better ad than that!” More than 25 years later I’m still in the business.

  5. What a wonderful post!

    When I was a pre-teen, I loved making myself invisible in our large, noisy country kitchen in order to listen to the women, my mother and her sisters, talk. I was supposed to be in the den with my uncles and father, who sat smoking, asleep, or staring out the window, a boring lot. So early on I found myself loving the language of storytelling.

    As a teen, I loved to read, magazines, comics, cereal boxes, it didn’t matter. When I was a senior, my English teacher declared my final essay to be one of the best she had ever read. I was stunned and insanely happy. I couldn’t sleep that night. I had a talent after all. That summer I wrote a short story about a boy leaving his doting grandfather (I didn’t have one.) and heading off to college. Hemingway was my model. I begged mama to loan (code for give) me twenty dollars to send the story off for editing and publishing. It was all a sham. I received the story back with a few lines marked in blue and a request for more money. Sigh. I went to college and when I was a sophomore wrote a novel, with a bic pen. It was about a hundred hand written pages…so I called it a novel. My wonderful Sophmore lit prof read it. She was a wonder. She asked me, “Did you have fun writing?” I think it was so bad, that she hoped at least I enjoyed it.

    So my writing career has had its ups and downs, but I always knew I loved literature, language, and writing. And I can honestly say, it was always women, strong, open-minded, and intelligent women, who pushed me along, who cleared the way, who somehow or the other instilled in a skinny little boy that he was worth something after all.
    Thanks for the chance to say all this!

    • The writing journey always has its ups and downs, doesn’t it? 😉

      I love that strong, intelligent women have been such a good influence in your creative life. That’s really special. And I love that even though you weren’t always successful, that you’ve kept at it. Your story sounds like it might make a great Story. Perhaps there’s something there you can play with!

      Thanks for sharing.

  6. I was very good in English class but I did not start writing until I was in my late 30s. I found out that I have a lot to say and it comes out through my writing.

    • I think we often don’t really know what we want to say until later in life. Sometimes, it’s worth waiting.

  7. I used to be a literary editor in our school paper. I wrote few school’s play as well. I dreamed to be a journalist once upon a time till my father put a stop to it telling me to find a course that will guarantee I will earn money when I’m finished. I went to medical field and later on in design, but I never stop writing. I remember writing stories in our kitchen while cooking and shoving the papers under the gas fire the moment my mother poked her head in there.

    • “I remember writing stories in our kitchen while cooking and shoving the papers under the gas fire the moment my mother poked her head in there.”
      … what a powerful image. There’s a whole story right there in that one sentence.

      I’m glad that you have persevered and no longer have to hide your writing. 🙂

  8. My favorite gifts as a child were a brand new Bic ballpoint pen and a fresh pad of lined paper. I’d say, yes, writing has been in my blood from the beginning. I’ve always loved to talk, and I found that writing my thoughts down (in a diary or later, in school essays) proved to be more fulfilling. English was definitely my favorite class, and I made a point of immediately becoming “teacher’s pet” the first day of every semester. I quickly realized that I had a gift and used it to excel in every class. Remember the groans from every kid when the teacher said there would be an essay on the final exam? I quietly jumped for joy every time – as long as I could write, I could ace the class (a skill I passed down to my daughter years ago). I, too, wrote for the school magazine, won a contest for a local newspaper and envisioned being a journalist “when I grew up.” Well, life happens and journalism didn’t. I pursued a career in business because I was good at that too, and it was easier to become a secretary back then than it was to break into the newspaper business. Fast-forward many years, and I find myself back where I started. I’ve been ghostwriting for years at my day job for a home builder. I write most articles for our local home finder with little to no modification. And while it used to be enough for me to know that I wrote them, a couple years ago I decided I could “take this on the road” and actually earn some money doing it. I’ve been freelancing at night for a couple years now and find I’m getting restless to do more. If only I had more time during the day! I’m pushing myself through this learning curve of digital marketing to find my niche, establish a blog and create an online presence that will help me ultimately do this full-time. I’m so happy to have found WordPress and the encouragement of so many who have walked this path before me. Thank you so much for welcoming me into this amazing world and inspiring me to follow my dream.

    • I read your comment with a smile on my face all the way through. I can just picture you as a student (I also jumped for joy a little when I knew there would be an essay question.), and I love that you’ve “taken your writing on the road.” That’s such a great first step!

      Very glad to have you here & also that you’re enjoying following your dream. That’s what it’s all about!

  9. Pingback: Friday Fun – Were you always good at writing? | Debbie Dey WRITES

  10. I’m still a student and the thought of becoming a writer happened to me only a year ago. It seems funny I have been thinking to write a story since my childhood. I think this adds to the stories I read at the time. But now I’m writing one. In my opinion one can only teach you where to put comma and other symbols we generally use. That’s you who will earn ideas and depict them. Yeah! You can always hone your skill with time passing on. I experienced this. Before few months I couldn’t write poems. But now I have done so. You aren’t always good but you become one if you possess passion and need to write.

    • I agree – there are elements of writing that can be taught and elements that can only be learned through experience, and both come together in the end. 🙂

    • Writing stories is an adventure in discovering what you want to say, and as you figure that out, your stories do become more interesting – to you and to your readers. Bravo!

  11. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I don’t think I’ve always been good at it. Practice, practice, and more practice!! Even now, I’m never satisfied with the end result. There’s always a word, a phrase, I could’ve done differently, or a part I’d like to edit out. That’s the writer’s curse….we’re never satisfied!!

  12. Well, part of the questions, am I a good writer today? Maybe. I’ve always enjoyed writing and a have always been better than most, but there was a time when I thought I was better at math than English in school. In my teens I took the military’s ASVAB test and was shocked. I scored in the 70th percentile for math and in the 94 percentile for language. A couple of years later I failed calculus for the first time, but received all A’s in English and history.

    However, while I think myself a good writer, I think of myself as a story teller first. Writing is just one way I do that.

    • Love the storyteller as primary identity and writer as a means to the storyteller’s end. And, so interesting how your skills and interests shifted like that. I for one, am glad they did. Otherwise, we might not have you as part of our little community here on the blog! 🙂

  13. I love the question, because it assumes I’m good at writing now! But I’m not so sure I am now, ever was, but…I will keep on trying to be. Yes, practice, and for me, writing from the heart is the only way I find my true voice.

    • Exactly, Many writers say that they write in order to figure out what they think and feel. For some of us, translating thoughts and feelings into words is the only way we can make sense of them.

  14. Lovely post!

    I remember being desperate to read everything I could get my hands on from a young age. I had an obsession with Sweet Valley High series of books and would often pinch the leather bound books from my Mother’s book case which would often be something beyond my years at the time like Wuthering Heights, Rebecca or some intense Irish poetry which I would tip my head side to side over.

    I would often write in to children’s magazines, telling anecdotes about my pets or people I’d met, many of which were printed and gave me endless satisfaction.

    I always got A’s in English at High School and not much else! I now work as a tattooist but I’m finding the time to slowly come back to what I love which is reading and recently I’ve dedicated some time to a little writing project I’ve had whirring round for the last seven years.

    Words can be so beautiful and once you take enjoyment in creating, in my opinion it’s with you for the rest of your life.

    • I couldn’t agree more – writing, once discovered, is a lifelong pursuit and joy. Though our practice may ebb and flow and take different forms, once we’ve fallen for the written word, we’ve fallen for good.

  15. Late, possible bloomer. Actually when I was younger it wasn’t so much the act of reading that enticed me but rather the; solitude, the escape and the sheer peace and quiet that comes with pastime. I’m five, it’s winter and I’m sat in front of my grandparent’s open fire with a comic completely convinced that things could not get any better. So started a love of other people’s words. Attempting to come up with some of my own was a more difficult struggle.

  16. Once again I thank you and value this post. All your journeys are interesting. I would like to have contributed to your comments as I too had great writing offer – a cadetship to study Journalism and a job at a newspaper. When I found I simply could not go down that path I KNEW it was to be fiction my hearts fulfillment. My Truth then became a spiritual dimension.
    Great post. Instructive and informative. Cheers!

    • The paths in our lives fork in unexpected ways, but always offer us new adventures at each turn. So glad your journey has brought you to a new and spiritual dimension.

  17. Pingback: Friday Fun – Were you always good at writing? | booksaregifts

  18. In law enforcement there are long periods of boredom between short periods of mania. As I enjoyed creative writing in HS, I began to write shorts stories, novellas, as a way of fighting off the nervous disorder brought on by waiting for the next stretch of working a crime scene over the next three to five days. Even today writing is a great stress reliever.

    • I never knew that. Fascinating. Love that you’re able to integrate writing into your life this way, and that – bonus! – it helps relieve stress. I can picture you as character in a story! 🙂

  19. Pingback: Friday Fun – Were you always good at writing? | JCU // Creative Writing Workshop

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