The old adage, ‘Writers are born, not made,’ is something I believed, well…until I didn’t. And I’m taking this statement literally as in that newborn baby snuggled in an isolate could write something amazing if he could get to a laptop. I’m sure there are people who are born to write, but I think it’s rare and doesn’t necessarily indicate they will be more successful or necessarily write a better story then those who are “made.”
If you read my post on What We’re Reading, it’s obvious that I fell in love with the sciences at an early age. I’d always been a good English student, and I loved to read, but I approached writing tasks with about as much enthusiasm as I did gym class, usually bored not only by my teachers, but the mundane assignments and a general lack of inspiration. I wrote a masters thesis with the same disdain, using a scientific approach to my rewrites with the sole intention of pleasing my professor.
As my career progressed, I began to hear comments that made me re-evaluate my writing skills. My secretary was a stenographer, most of you youngin’s probably don’t know what that is, but it meant I could just dictate my memos to her, then she used her “special code language” to write down everything I said on her steno pad. She’d type it up and give it to me to sign. One day she made an off-hand comment remarking on how expert I was at writing off the top of my head, the end result sounding professional and well “…perfect,” she said. “I’ve never met anyone who could do that so well.” Then one day, someone asked if I would give a speech for a friend who was retiring and I reluctantly agreed. I wrote a poem, more of an “ode,” and read it at her retirement party. It was funny, and a bit irreverent, but the crowd went wild. Accolades came my way, “Wow. You wrote that? …You’re so funny, and witty,” and well, I actually blushed.
I began to write a limerick each morning about the mundane goings-on in my work life and sent it out by email to a select group of colleagues. My boss was the “King of Camelot”; (our school was called Camelot because we had the premier school in the district where supposedly nothing bad ever happened, our kids loved to come to school, got the best scores in the district, and the parents were our cheerleaders rather than our critics). Again, my fans remarked, “You just write that off the top of your head every morning? Just like that? It’s hysterical and profound at the same time.”
One night I had a dream about a young girl who died and what she found on the “other side” shocked her.
I started to write and couldn’t stop. I wrote 300,000 words in seven months and had a fantasy trilogy in first draft status. Now what? Could I really consider myself a writer? An author? Me? The Science Nerd?
I finally got the nerve to let someone read it. I picked Kaitlyn, my twenty-three-year-old niece, and a prolific YA reader. I mailed her the first book in hard copy. My sister, her mother, got the mail first and begged to read it. I was terrified of letting an “older” adult read it, but I gave in, knowing my sister would be honest in her review. Kate came home from school–she was a first year, first grade teacher at the time. My sister had already started reading and they sat down together and my sister handed off pages to my niece. They said they couldn’t read fast enough. I sat on the couch trying to watch TV, my pulse rate too high, the phone in my hand. They called me at ten that night and swore they loved it. They read until midnight, then finally had to put it down. Kate had to go to work in the morning, but my sister didn’t. She lay in bed for a while, debating whether to stay up all night and finish it because she couldn’t wait to see what happened next. They both completed it the next day and well…that’s the day I became an author. I certainly wasn’t born that way.
Up Next from Caryn… The School of Hard Knocks: Learning the Craft.