I think it was Terry Pratchett who said that if you read enough books you’ll eventually start writing because all the words filling up your brain will start seeping out. That’s as good an explanation as any.
I have never thought of myself as a writer; but the first time I remember wanting to write a book was about 30 years ago. And I thought, “Well, if that’s what I want to do I better start now.”
I sat down and wrote into an old notebook. About three sentences into the story I despaired. This was no good. Ridiculous. So, obviously it wasn’t meant to be, I had no talent, and that was it.
Interestingly I didn’t really stop writing. I kept a journal, I wrote lots and lots of letters, and occasionally bad poetry. When there were writing assignments in school I loved doing them but none of my teachers thought they were particularly good. I didn’t know you could practice writing then. I thought you either had it or you hadn’t.
I gave up my dream of being a writer much as I had given up my dream of being a dancer at age 10, of being an actress at age 12, and of becoming a musician at age 16. (How my dream of being a musician came back is another story for another day.)
When I was 18 I entered two halfheartedly attempts at stories to a contest. I never heard anything back. It was only when I wrote my master’s thesis that I realized how much I actually liked the writing part of it. For a couple of weeks I’d spend every morning with it. After breakfast I’d get to the computer and start the day by writing into my journal. Then I went on to the thesis.
While writing about how jazz music is taught in German schools I had a lot of story ideas coming to me. I kept them in a folder on my computer where they sit until today. A friend told me about a book about writing screen plays. I had no intention of ever writing anything fictional but I bought the book, and started a script. Then I went back to the thesis. (I actually wrote a first draft of this script that I started in 1992 last year during Script Frenzy.)
It took me ten years to finally realize that my main motivation for going on towards a Ph.D. was that I wanted to write another book. Only after years and years of working on that did I realize that I’m not an academic.
But I still didn’t think of myself as a writer. And as of now I’m still unsure. Last year a new friend introduced me as, “This is Susanne. She’s a writer.” I had to resist the urge to hide and protest.
I might have a storyteller’s mind though. Through conversations with my husband I found out that not all people tell themselves stories all the time. That there are, in fact, lots of people who don’t invent characters and live with them for years.
So, when I first heard about NaNoWriMo in 2005 I immediately knew I had to do it. And I did. Twice. Which means that now there are two novels in first draft sitting in my desk drawer.
I’m a bit slow, I know, because only after writing for my blog for more than a year did I get the fact that writing a blog is still writing. (Do you hear me? You’re writers too.)
From all this I conclude that writing seems to be important to me. It feeds part of my soul. And my life feels richer for it. I still don’t know if I’m going to tell any of the stories in my head, or if one of my first drafts will ever get to be finished, but for now I’m very happy with writing about the things that feel important to me, and – and that’s the best thing about a blog – have people read my writing and come back for it.