“What made you want to be a writer?” Writers hear variants of this all the time. I thought I’d put my answer here.
The short answer is that I don’t know. I think it was the stories themselves that made me want to be a writer. I’ve always loved stories. I’m told I learned to read at age three–I don’t remember learning to read, and I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t. If I learned to read very early, it was probably self-defense, because I remember being a little older than that and wanting people to read to me (because even when you can read for yourself, it’s still nice when someone reads to you), and I could never get them to read as many stories as I wanted to hear.
Later, when I was school age, I remember telling stories to my friends to pass the time in the lunch line and at recess when the weather was bad and we were stuck inside. I don’t remember when I started doing this. In third grade we had a student teacher, and she sat in on one of my recess storytelling sessions. By that point, storytelling was something that I did so regularly with my friends that it seemed normal to me to have people sitting around listening to what I was making up. However, the student teacher liked my story so much she tried to get me to repeat it to my teacher. I got very shy and embarrassed at that point and claimed that I couldn’t remember my story. I guess that’s also part of why I became a writer rather than a performer of some sort, storyteller or one-woman-show sort of performer or something. I’m pretty good in front of an audience now, but I still feel really shy and awkward about being there.
I don’t remember when I started writing the stories down, either. In eighth grade there was a story writing contest at my school, complete with prizes. As soon as I heard about it, I knew I would write a story for it. And I remember this being something I did, writing down stories, although I don’t have memories of writing down stories before that one. By the time that contest came along, I was already a writer, because I knew that I could write a story to enter in the contest. I never questioned if it was something I could do. (That story was called “Kelly’s Horse,” by the way, and I won second prize.)
So, what made me want to be a writer? I really don’t remember. It seems like it must have been a natural progression that rose from loving stories so much. I know that there are stories in my head, always. There are always conversations between characters and scenes that play out in my head. I must be a writer, because I feel like I need to do something with these stories, but I don’t know what first made me want to do it. Maybe I was born this way.