The moment you became a writer

I like learning about writers and their lives outside of their work. It’s always interesting to read about how a writer whose work we love got started and what compelled them to begin writing. When I came across this lovely essay from the incredibly talented author Ron Rash, not only did I order his book Serena, which sounds amazing, but I felt the need to share his words of wisdom with our readers. It also follows my recent post about Quiet and I am once again reminded of the power in observing and listening in our daily lives.

Rash’s story is so personal, but I think there is a focus on looking at things in a different way, as a writer, that also got me to thinking about life-changing moments. Do you remember the moment when you decided you would become a writer? Was it never a question, but rather instinctual? Or did something happen that took you on the road to writing? Please share with us your thoughts on your own gift of storytelling. And I hope you find some inspiration from Rash’s story.


7 Responses to The moment you became a writer

  1. Emily says:

    Can’t relate to the story — there’s never been a time when language seemed magic to me — and writing has paid my way in life from achieving good grades in high-school right on through to retirement. In fact, my retirement is funded by a long career of writing — composition just came to me like breathing. Possibly because my parents read books to all us children, and my mother wrote beautiful narratives and some secret poetry I discovered after her death. My brother and two sisters have the talent too — although they do not recognize it — it just casually pours forth in family correspondence. Whereas I agonize over every single verb!

    My father had a deep intimate knowledge of language, totally untutored I assure you. He heard the details of spoken words and corrected all mismatched nouns and verbs. Maybe the capacity to listen intently, and intimately is the family secret?

    Even now, I can hear silly errors in the voices of announcers — as when one may say the word “senator” when he references a “congressman.”

    Anyway, I don’t think its magic.

  2. D.C. DaCosta says:

    I’ve always been “able” to write, thanks to a good education and parents who kept good books in the house.

    But being able to handle the written language doesn’t make you a WRITER.

    For me, literally one day I simply woke up and decided to write a novel. Over the next four months I passed each chapter, as I finished it, around a circle of friends for their input. Let’s say, they were merciless.

    However, time and again, these people raised the topic of the book out of the blue. As much as they criticized it, the work ENGAGED them, and they wanted to discuss it among themselves without my prompting.

    That’s when I knew.

  3. EDWARD says:

    How easy it is to look upon a “Prince from a Pauper” story once the guy has made it to the rank of prince, once the drama is essentially played out. What if the the five year old boy sitting in the big boy chair never learns how to pronounce the word “gesture”? What if he goes through life getting beat up by other boys because he is denounced as a marble mouth? As an adult, he becomes a transit worker, or an usher, or custodian, or pizza delivery man, or trash collector. Through it all, he suffers a speech impediment. To hear Ron Rash tell it, he barely suffers at all. Citing a simple narrative of “that was then and this is now,” he indulges in a simple childhood memory. He excludes the 99% of the five year old boys who don’t get help, who don’t grow up to be renowned writers, who don’t grow up to be the next Michael Jordan or Bill Gates. Perhaps the hardest story to tell is the one which lacks a Hollywood ending.

  4. Katie says:

    “That night it became indelibly connected to the way I viewed language—something magical that I grasped at but that was just out of reach.”

    This is exactly how I still view language. There are parts I can reach and others I have yet to grasp, but every new word leads to greater meaning. I’m such a nerd, but when I hit upon a word I don’t know the meaning to, I rush to the dictionary, flip through the pages and find the definition – it’s like finding gold!! It’s truly “magical.”

    And Edward (if you read this) I think the only difference between a pauper who becomes a prince, and a pauper who stays a pauper, is belief. The pauper has to believe he can become a prince no matter what his current circumstances are… The beauty of language is it’s at hand for everyone – even children can write!

    And the greater one’s obstacles are, the more stories they have to tell. Characters are bountiful when a writer has been a transit worker, an usher, a custodian, a pizza man and a trash collector.

    Don’t ever give up, keep writing!!! <–Note to self :-)

  5. Leonardo says:

    My parents had started an alternative kindergarten for my younger brother, and when I was twelve they told me that if I didn’t wish to, I didn’t have to go to school anymore. Three weeks later, I did just that. One of the “obligations” I had to fulfill as I wasn’t studying formally anymore, was to write one page a day. The page became a short story, two stories, then a novel (which I found years later, began to read, and burned). When I was fifteen, after two years back in school, I left again. What I really wanted to do was write, go on adventures. As I couldn’t, I wrote about those adventures I wanted to have. Soon, though, I left home when I was sixteen, wrote three handwritten novels the first year, and never looked back. Hard to tell when exactly I became a writer.

    It wasn’t until I was twenty-seven that I began publishing. Fifteen years later.

    I’d gone on a lot of adventures, including sailing the South Pacific, walking across the Andes into the Amazon jungle, taken part in Gold Survey expeditions (as a photographer), adventures that fed my writing, writing that wasn’t getting published. What was I doing wrong?

    First of all, I’d decided to write in English even though it wasn’t my first language in spite of me having been born in Connecticut. I’d lived in Ecuador, South America, most of my life. My language stood out, probably awkward, maybe odd to English-speaking ears … or eyes.

    One day, returning home to a house I’d designed and built myself, desperate to publish but realizing it might never happen, I decided I would continue writing even if I never published anything.

    A week later a received a call from a national newspaper. “Would you mind helping us with some articles for the Cultural Magazine?” Soon, another call. A friend asked me if I wanted to publish an adventure novel I’d written about a gold survey expedition, to be published by Ecuador’s National Library System. Then I was offered a job aboard a Tall Ship acting as instructor aboard a school ship that wanted to follow Humboldt’s route from Germany to South America. There I met a well known German writer who, upon reading one of my manuscripts written in English, offered it to a German publisher (Carlsen), and during the trip across the Atltantic we cooked up a YA novel that was later offered and published by Bertelsmann.

    As these miracles began happening, I thought about Michael Ende’s The Never Ending Story, where doors open only after you’ve given up passing through them.

  6. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    I avoid calling myself a writer simply because I have yet to make a living from it; until then, it’s just a pastime I happen to be very, very good at. Don’t be impressed; how many brilliant actors out there have day jobs that sustain them-connections matter more. I remember how stoked I was a few years ago to be able to pay taxes on the 10 grand I made from the comic series I created for Boys Life Magazine until I found out what a bullet magnet they were as a publishing credit… I trust no one reading this will ever tell anyone I used to work with them, as I’m trying to repair my image and rejoin respectable society. And by the way,Emily, writing isn’t “magic”, but it never hurts to have some on your side, because it definitely isn’t scientific…

  7. Stacey says:

    Thanks so much for all of your thoughtful comments! It’s really nice to engage in these thoughts about writing. Please keep reading and letting us know what we can offer that will be helpful on your journey.

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