I began with poems. By third grade, I was a “published” poet – courtesy of the local newspaper’s column for child writers. In fifth grade, I wrote a 200-page novel, one two-page chapter at a time, as a present for my teacher. She read at least part of it aloud to the class, revealing its many flaws to audience and author alike. I tried and abandoned another novel four years later. I retreated to poetry, but wearied of my own style by my freshman year in college.
What to try next? Short stories. As a sophomore, I enrolled in a seminar and wrote stories – until the instructor cheerfully commented one day, during class, that I had done thus-and-so rather well for someone who “wasn’t a born writer.” My one lifelong certainty undermined, the last straw added to the load, I stopped writing anything but required papers. The papers came hard: I would write a single sentence, go out into the common hallway and complain or bang my head on the wall, then return to my room and squeeze out another. I wrote an occasional scrap of poetry, but never tried to finish a poem.
Lacking any substitute ambition and terrified of the working world, I hid from it in law school. There, and even more as a practicing attorney, I somehow learned to write with relative ease. After a few years, I could churn out pages of effective advocacy without trauma or fuss.
I became a mother. Lines for picture books floated up from the depths. As my children grew, I wrote and filed away manuscripts, all reassuringly short. Of course I wasn’t writing novels. I knew I couldn’t do that. I called myself a wordsmith rather than a writer.
Once again, my children led me. My elder daughter entered National Novel Writing Month and completed a charming short novel. As November approached and she declared her attention to participate again, I let myself contemplate joining her. My younger daughter urged me on. I told myself I would start, just start, just dip in my toes, see how the water felt.
I emerged dripping and triumphant, 60,000 word rough draft in hand. Many revisions and another 26,000 words later, and after uncounted hours of reading blogs like this one, I may be close to beginning the submission process for my science fiction novel.
Whether born so or made so, I am a writer.