Every writer has a story about their journey to writerdom. I believe writers are not born but self-made. They choose to follow a dream that seems a little esoteric in today’s digital, text-messaged world.
I was inspired to write about my own writing journey reading British romance author Morton S. Gray’s blog post “How I Became A Writer”. Gray’s writing first came from her love for reading, developing under her mother’s encouragement that included trips to the library and a book club membership. Gray fondly remembers, “Mom used to read to me all the time, snuggled up on the sofa and my love for a good story was born” (par. 2). Gray wrote her first novel at the age of fourteen, “a swashbuckler, full of pirates, tall ships and swords” (par. 4). Then, like many of us, life took over and Gray didn’t touch fiction for a while. It wasn’t until “[a]n acquaintance started a publishing company and she held a short story competition… [and] I won… [that the] spark was ignited” (Gray, par. 8). Gray went back to school to get a certificate in creative writing, but like many writers, she found her fictional direction away from school. She states, “I could have studied further, but the course was taking me into areas I was less interested in and I’d decided by then that I wanted to write romance novels” (Gray, par. 9).
I can identify with some of Gray’s journey. Like Gray, I wrote my first novel when I was fourteen and like her, I went back to school to study writing (though my time as a creative writing student was short-lived). And like Gray, I found my passion in writing outside of the confines of academia.
My journey as a writer did not begin, unfortunately, as a child. My parents weren’t much on reading and they didn’t encourage me to read, though they didn’t discourage me either. My mom has a restless personality and I don’t think she ever was able to really sit down and read a book before she retired. She never quite understood my sister’s and my passion for books, our adoration of the public library and bookstores, though she never kept us from them and was always fine with spending money to buy books or driving us to the library. My parents never read to me as a child either. There was a good reason for this. My parents grew up in Israel and they were unfamiliar with American children’s books and their grasp of English was less fluent when I was a child than it is now as we came to the United States when I was a baby. So it wasn’t realistic to expect them to read to us.
I found books on my own and read them. Still, being a writer didn’t occurred to me until I was fourteen. I have said over and over again that writing became my voice at that age. My twin sister had a friend named Tara who had been writing since she was five years old. When we were in junior high school, I started to see my sister carry extra notebooks around with her, hiding them from my parents, and evading my questions about them. One day, Tara said, “It’s just writing. She’s just writing.” I became intrigued and Tara was more than happy to explain to me about “just writing”. I was fascinated by the idea of creating a story on paper, as I had already been creating stories in my imagination since I was a child. I kept a journal in one notebook and wrote a novel in another. My first novel was a children’s fantasy inspired by the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. After it was finished, I wanted to experiment with every kind of writing, so I wrote poetry, songs, short stories, plays – anything I could think of without knowing what the hell I was doing (there was no internet then to look up how-to writing articles, no Facebook support groups for teenage writers).
But like Gray, life took over after college and I focused more on making a living. I worked in secretarial (or, as they were called in the 90’s, “administrative assistant”) and support jobs at many different companies. Although it might seem like my English degree didn’t qualify me for much else, the choice to work at office jobs was intentional. I knew the work wouldn’t be too intellectually challenging (not to put down office workers – they do a lot of hard work and take a lot of bull from supervisors) and it would leave my mind free to focus on writing.
But at some point, even office jobs weren’t cutting it for me anymore and I decided to go back to school. Although I started with something more “practical” (a Marriage and Family Therapist graduate program), I ultimately moved to English, my biggest passion. I discuss more about my college choices and experiences here. After my master’s program, I did enter a doctoral program in creative writing but, like Gray, I felt it wasn’t giving me what I really needed so I left after a year. It’s a decision I don’t regret.
Every writer has a story about their journey and although there might be some similarities (for example, a love of reading as a child), each is different. Just as writers are all individual, so are their journeys.
Gray, Morton S. “How I Became A Writer”. Web blog post. Morton’s Blog. WordPress, 5 July 2016. Web. 17 May 2017.