Sunday, June 26, 2011

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Okay. I admit that I hate when people ask me that question. Not because I don’t have an answer – I do, but I always feel like it’s the wrong answer. So many writers I know answer that question not only with a YES but with stories of writing their own books at the age of six or eight or ten. I love listening to those authors talk about their lifelong love affair with writing and their longtime desire to reach readers with their words. When they are done I always feel a bit ashamed that my answer to the same question is no.

No. I didn’t always want to be a writer. While I have had loved reading from the time I learned to do it on my own, I admit that while growing up it was never my dream to be an author. Reading other people’s stories or bringing other people’s words alive on the stage was what I was good at. It was what I did. In fact, when I started typing my first book it wasn’t because I had a burning passion for writing the next great American novel. I simply had an idea for the beginning of a story and was curious to see where the story would take me. It wasn’t until I finished that manuscript that I really started wondering if I could learn the skills necessary to make the words I wrote good enough for publication.

Funny, but while I’ve had one book published, another coming out this year and more on the way, my reasons for writing haven’t changed. I mean, sure, I’d like to make money at this adventure. If for no other reason than to justify all the time I spend in front of my computer putting words on the screen. But my core reason for writing remains the same. I have an idea that intrigues me. I write to see where that idea goes.

Do I hope that someone some day might want to read the story? Sure. But that isn’t the reason I write. I write because I want to know how the story unfolds. I want to see how the story ends. It’s about me. My curiosity. My interest in the characters and the troubles they face. I don’t wonder about the readers who might open the book or the publishers who might be interested in giving me a contract on the book until I hit THE END. Because until that point – it is my story. Written just for me.

So maybe I haven’t always wanted to be a writer. Maybe I never dreamed I could finish writing book let alone ten manuscripts. And maybe some days I feel guilty that I have adopted the dream that so many others came to early in life and have yet to find success with. One thing is certain – no matter if I never get another publishing contract and if no one else beyond my household reads another word that I write – I will continue to write. Because I want to know how the story goes. It’s as simple as that.

So I guess I want to hear your writing story. Why do you write? What makes you sit down and face a blank screen day after day hoping the words come in order to fill it?


Gerald So said...

I haven't always wanted to write. My dream jobs as a child were, in no particular order: astronaut, oceanographer, soldier, and inventor. I realized I wanted to write at 13, when my school library published a classmate's book. Out of nowhere, I felt If he can do it, I can, and I've geared the rest of my life toward writing.

I write because writing is more active than reading. Reading, to me, is like watching sports. I enjoy watching, sure, but I prefer to get in the game.

I write because I feel I can express myself best in writing. Planning what to write and revising help test my logic before I spring it on people. If I didn't write anything, kept everything to myself, I'd go stir crazy.

John McFetridge said...

In my late teens I wanted to make movies. I loved going to the movies and stuff like Jaws and Butch Cassidy were my favourites. And then I discovered books that had even better stories.

But I didn't have anything to say. And from what I could see there were two ways to become a writer - go on adventures all over the world to get something to write about or study it like a craft in school. I sort of did both but still didn't feel like I had anything to say that wasn't already being said better.

But then I noticed, in Canada anyway, we were really buying into our reputations and a lot of our writing was presenting us as the "nice" middle-class that most of us are. But not all of us. Most CanLit, as we call it, is about college professors and people in the suburbs and historical stuff and I started to realize that there were a lot of people I knew well whose stories weren't being told, or certainly weren't being told with much of an "insider's pov" so I try to do that.

But I was in my forties when I realized this, so I can't really say I always wanted to be a writer.

Kristi said...

I like your reason and applaud you for being honest about it. Your reason is just as valid as anyone else's. In fact, maybe more so because I think that a true artist ultimately creates for themselves.
Me? I tried to write a book as a kid, so yeah I guess I'm a little stereotypical, but it was all part of my obsession with books and reading. I think I fell into journalism because I didn't have the guts to pursue fiction writing. It took turning 40 to be that brave.

W.G. Cambron said...

I didn't always wanted to be a writer, but it seems I've always wrote.
Currently I have taken my passion for writing and running as far as I can with it. I write fiction. Though there are elements in truth in it.
Sometimes I have too many stories that want to come out, but there are days when I'm focused on one story and it gets wrote with prescion. That's a problem, I like to be conscise, unlike novels.

Cat Russell said...

This post rings so true. I haven't always wanted to be a writer either. Five years ago in November I discovered Nanowrimo, and that's when I realized what I wanted to do. I was in my late thirties, so I could hardly say I've always written. But I do it because I love it and there's a story (or stories) I want to tell.

Thank you for sharing this.

Dana King said...

I always wanted to be a trumpet player, but lacked certain requisites and had to find "real" work. I'd written stories and poems for my friends off and on for years, and when I wrote a short crime story that used many of my friends as characters, they asked for more, and it kind of evolved. I enjoy it, but I can't say I'm driven to it.

Why do I sit down to do it every day? (Well, every day that I'm writing. Taking summers off has become a pleasure.) I really don't know. Part of it has to do with my need for a "project," something to fill the hole left because I don't need to practice the trumpet, but that's not a great answer; home improvements would serve the same role. I guess it's because I enjoy the feedback and craft; it's my version of woodworking.

Anonymous said...

I'm kinda with W.G. Cambron, kinda with Gerald.

When I was little, I wanted to be a lawyer, an astronaut, a fashion designer, a lawyer, a scientist, a corporate executive, and a lawyer. (I have no idea why I still haven't gone to law school other than the collection of excuses I came up with to avoid paying for it.)

I did, however, always read. I read the Childcraft Encyclopedia set until I had parts memorized. I read stacks of books from the library. I read stuff I bought with my allowance at the used book store on the far side of town. And when I ran out of things to read, I made up stories. Some I wrote down. Some I didn't. Most were cheap versions of the Nancy Drew Case Files and all [that were written down] have since been shredded, burned or tossed in a landfill.

I never really "wanted" to be a writer like I wanted to be other things. It was something I did because of some weird compulsion -- kind of like photography. I'm still not sure I "want" to be a writer in that way kids today pick out careers based on job market security, potential earnings, level of proud-parentness, possibility of getting laid... But then again, now that I'm old enough to realize there's no such thing as job security; earnings are relative at best, parents can be bought off with food and beer; and even a blind chimp can get laid if there's enough booze involved... I think I just want to be whatever I am and hope for the best.

Al Tucher said...

I backed into writing, because it's the only pursuit I can think of in which no experience is wasted--not even those experiences I would gladly have done without.