I didn’t always want to be a writer. In fact, I think I might happily trade writing for my first love and obsession: unassisted flight.
To 9-year-old me, flight without the baggage of airplanes and jetpacks was the highest accomplishment a human being could achieve, and I pursued my obsession with the religious fervor of saints (as much as a 9-year-old could). I knew that if I believed strongly enough, if I could jump off the deck with my arms spread wide enough and my heart filled with the nine feet of air beneath my heels, that I would float magically and divinely about the backyard.
I always fell.
After battling through the depression of my age turning double digits for the first time, I accepted with grudging bitterness that I would never fly without the help of some clunky, man-made device. I resolved next, briefly, to be an astronaut so that I might have the privilege of floating (which is like flying), but failing math in fourth grade kind of killed that dream (I later went on to be quite proficient at mathematics, in case you were wondering).
I then settled down to my true destiny and focused on becoming an author. I didn’t start reading at a particularly young age (though I talked abnormally quickly and proceeded to tell everyone the storied I’d made up, so… basically the same thing) but I loved stories, and found in them the merging of the normal with the magical that I so despondently lacked in real life. After the dream of true flight, what else could there be but to disappear into worlds where all sorts of miracles were possible?
To her credit, my mother always believed in me, but everyone else looked upon my dreams with skepticism. Everyone was so afraid I’d end up a starving hippie artist that they tried to steer me into more practical career solutions.
“You like to write? Never mind with being a novelist, how about a journalist?”
So I tried my hand at that. I even won an award from the Journalism Education Association based on a contest I did at a convention while I was in high school. The only problem is that I truly despised journalism. The award wasn’t so much based on my investigative skills -it was a feature article!- as my instinct for rearranging sentences into pleasurable reading.
Journalism -that hateful beast- finally out of the way, advice talks turned to other forms of professional writing: contract, technical, copy, etc. Anything, ANYTHING but creative writing! A well-meaning relative once told me in no uncertain terms that if I liked and was good at writing then I should be a judge (yes, as in courts), because they wrote all the time (summaries of cases and stuff like that).
I was perplexed by the massive misunderstandings of the adults in my life. Was creative writing really such a dead-end career path that they were throwing me any lifesaver alternate they could think of? Or did they simply not understand the depth of passion and dedication I felt towards novel writing? I guess non-writers face a bit of a challenge in trying to understand why writers feel compelled to write.
Though I was willing to consider other suggestions, and might have expressed excited interest in a topic I really didn’t care for just in order to make a well-meaning adviser go away, I never wavered in the belief that what I really wanted to do was make books. If I had to work full time at a job I hated or become a trophy wife (if I was even eligible for such an occupation) in order to survive while I got my novelist career started, so be it. Writing was always inevitable, no matter what I had to do around the time I wasn’t actually writing.
And no one but other writers seemed to understand that.
I thought I’d put this out here tonight in case anyone was feeling the frustration that results when everyone around you is doubtful of what you are so certain. When you want something as bad as I wanted writing, you just want it, and no logic or scare tactics are going to keep you away. And that’s perfectly all right. :-)
Also, last weekend I went and hung out with my friend and fellow LTWF blog contributor, Susan Dennard. She was wonderful and I had a fabulous time just hanging out. I put some pics up on Facebook if you’re interested in seeing someone else’s pictures of animals at an aquarium ;-)