Most writers start out as avid readers. Many of us have a favorite book we remember reading early on, something that touched us and instilled in us a love of stories. It might have been something as simple as the picture book primers in kindergarten or first grade, that first introduced us to the magical world of words. Or perhaps it was something more complicated than that; "Black Beauty," for example, or "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."
For me, it was "Little Women," by Louisa May Alcott, the first book I remember reading that, though it had black-and-white sketch-type illustrations, was not a picture book. I cried when Jo broke Laurie's heart, and envied Amy's beauty and spirit. For the first time I realized that fictional characters could seem as real--could feel as genuine--as any of the people in my day-to-day life. It was a revelation, and I devoured books like a starved person suddenly given access to an overflowing buffet. That buffet was the public library, and I'll never forget my disappointment when, after staggering to the checkout desk with an armful of books, I was told I could check out only five at a time. I learned to read faster.
What was your favorite book, or the first one that really touched you, as a child?
Somewhere along the line, as young readers, we start to understand that these books, these miraculous stories, were written by people not that much different than ourselves. That knowledge plants the first tiny, barely-formed idea that we could write stories too! Given writing assignments in school, the writer in us took those assignments, grew wings and soared into a world of infinite possibility.
Then, eventually, it happens that we read a book that's not particularly well-written. We throw it aside in disgust, thinking, "I could do better than that!"
Many writers I know say that's that moment when they first began to entertain the idea of actually writing something for publication. It's a scary idea. But once it takes hold it's an idea not easily discarded. We wonder if we have the talent to succeed.
Talent is just another word for creativity. If you wonder if you have talent, you do. Some admittedly have more than others, but talent isn't everything. The world is full of talented people who do little or nothing with their gifts. It's also full of people who, by working steadily at their craft, have found real success and personal satisfaction because they had the determination to stick with it. That's a talent in itself.
A word about publication: Not everyone who writes is doing so to have their essays, stories or books placed in a national magazine or listed on Amazon.com. In my writing workshops I get a fair number of people who are there because they want to write something for their family. Often it's a retired person who wants to tell their life story, something to leave to their children and grandchildren before the stories are "lost forever." They don't care if anyone else reads it--and in many cases would prefer that no one but the family did--but they feel their early experiences in the war, the Great Depression, even the holocaust, are part of a legacy that shouldn't vanish. And they're right.
Whatever your reason for writing, don't forget to have fun! Getting lost in a good book--which, if done by a skilled author, becomes invisible in the reader's hands--is a joy. Writing is hard work, no doubt about it. But if you keep your eye on the bigger picture, the payoff in the end is worth it.
"I hate writing. But I love having written."
I'll be presenting Part 2 (of 5) of my "Writing Your Book" series in Sioux Falls, on Thursday, March 31st, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. In Part 2 we'll discuss POV (Point of View), Characters and Dialogue. You can see my schedule at www.JeanTennant.com.
Why do you write?