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: 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.
Lisa 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.
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.
Jamie 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 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.