Mar 152008

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.

  13 Responses to “Why I write. And how I started it.”

  1. Writing can be so scary and overwhelming too. I write because that was my dream, growing up. That’s who I really want to be. Blogging has helped me realize that too, and it’s put me in touch with others who have the same dream and struggle against the same voices of despair. I’m new here, but I’m definitely coming back, and I thank you again for recognizing me as a writer in the Just Posts this month. It meant a lot. More than you know.

  2. The only definition of a writer that matters to me is “Someone who writes.” Yes, we are writers.

  3. I understand so well your resistance at calling yourself a writer. This is a profession I have held up so high, it runs the risk of melting for its proximity to the sun. Like you, I’ve been writing all my adult life: letters, poetry, short stories, children stories, computer game scripts, a novel, a blog… and yet, I would not be able to tell anyone with any seriousness that I am a writer. I write. I write a nearly every day. Does that make me a writer? Until reading this post, I would have said no. Now you’ve given me a chance to rethink the matter.

  4. Like the others i too love to write, have sent off pieces of my writing only for them to be sent back – with nice comments though. It was my strong point in school and my imagination is still pretty vivid, something which my son seems to have inherited. I think you should call yourself a writer Susanne, for goodness sake two completed novels!!!! If you are a fan of Terry Pratchett and who isnt, i found it very sad this week to learn of his ongoing battle with alzheimer’s disease.

  5. that is the best thing about a blog…having it read. i would never think of myself as a writer but you know, i think of you as one.

  6. Apropos Terry Pratchett: Read this? ->

  7. I like to talk much more than I like to write. But with no one to talk to, I write out my conversations and stick them on a blog. It works.

  8. My oldest brother reads my blog and is my biggest fan. He’s always pushing me to make the jump to fiction and to work at getting published. I try to explain to him that I know who I am and I am NOT a fiction writer. I simply do not have that capacity. Su, if you have the characters in your head, then it is great that you have given them a way to come out. It’s also great that you also find value in the non-fiction genre that is blog writing. Both, to my mind, have merit and not every writer can deftly handle more than one genre.

  9. Writing is something I do for me. Whatever day job I held just didn’t cut the mustard when it came to brain stimulation so I started to write. It is hard to call myself a writer and I always blush when I do. I think it is because then I have to go into this long explanation of why I feel I am one. I’m trying to get over it. Have you heard about Zoetrope? It’s the best online critique group / message board for writers I’ve found. There are many talented people there and when writing it helps to speak to others about the craft. Just as blogging helps get the words moving. Check it out but be warned…it can be addictive!

    great post!

  10. How lovely that you haven’t held yourself back, but continue to plow on and produce – keeping your writer’s muscles toned. And yes, having a blog is such a gift to people who believe themselves writers and those who don’t. It is a forum – for oneself and whoever wants to hop along for the ride.

  11. I like the writing because I do not think of myself as a writer. So I feel quite easy in just saying things without worrying about the product. Very different than how I appraoch my visual work.

  12. I’m opposite to crazymumma on this one, but I’ve loosened up since I started my blog. I find it better to get things written and to stop fidgeting with diction and sentence structure.

  13. I have always written down the minutiae of my life. I enjoy having a record of how I actually felt instead of how I remember feeling. Boy, talk about navel-gazing.

    I admire you for focusing and writing something structured. I don’t have that in me – too lazy.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.