Deciding to Write

9a. When did you decide to be a writer?

I stared at the question on my screen. I don’t know that I have seen more than a handful of author interviews where this question was not asked, so it wasn’t a surprise to find it here. I skipped it, finished the blog interview form I was filling out and came back to it. According to my friends, I am prone to overthinking simple things.  No idea what they mean.

Most answers I’ve read go something like this:

I made my own books in junior high. I have written my own stories since I was three.  My mom played Mozart while I used my fetal typewriter to compose sonnets. 

I’m not saying I don’t buy it.  Hell, I envy the certitude if that’s the case.  I have said that I always wanted to be a writer.  I also wanted to be an astronaut and a marine biologist.  One of these things is not like the others. I had an equal understanding of what it would take to be any of the three (none), yet one is actually happening. As I stared at question 9a, I started thinking about why writing turned out different.

No, this is not a, “Write everyday-BANG!-you’re a writer.” post.  While semantically true, that isn’t what the question is asking either.  If it were, I suspect the question would be asked far less.  As much as that is good advice for output, what the reader really wants to know is when and how you developed the mindset that drives you to do what they want to do.

That takes more than wanting something. It takes full knowledge of the cost involved and a willingness to pay that price. You have to find a reason to want it when you shouldn’t.  Being a writer takes active, constant determination. I have heard it said, in the Norse religion you are gothi (priest/chieftain) when you can stand up, say you are, and no one, yourself included, laughs you out of the hall.  That fits.  Somewhere along the way, I said I was a writer, meant it, and didn’t feel the need to justify that statement.  I simply was.

So, when did that happen?

It happened when I wrote a story in high school that turned the stomach of my classmates but lit up the face of the teacher (Shout out Ms. Bashara). I knew I had made a world they believed in and reacted to viscerally.

It happened when I submitted my first story to a magazine, five or six years later, that promptly shuttered the windows, locked the doors, and never appeared again.  I always imagined the editor reading my story, setting it aside, and calmly saying, “Well, I am done with all this.” Right before purchasing gas cans and matches for the office.  I try not to take it personally.

It happened over a decade later when, spurred by the happiness of a friend living her dream, I sat down at a keyboard with the intent to write stories again, for myself, if no one else. She still says I place far too much credit on her for this.  I say when you are lost and stop to ask someone for directions (I’m a guy, I have this information only second hand) you thank them.

It happened with every rejection.

It happened with the first acceptance, the first edits, the first contract.

It is a decision you make every step of the way to append that title to your name.  Good or bad.  It starts silent, a secret just for you.  Eventually, it slips out, you try it on, and realize now it fits. Then you keep wearing it because now you are naked without it.  You put it on every day.

9a. When did you decide to be a writer?

Today.

R. Judas Brown has appeared in several anthologies, is working with The Ed Greenwood Group, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Quincy Writers Guild in Quincy, IL. You can follow him on Twitter @RJudasBrown, at www.facebook.com/RJudasBrown, or visit his website at www.rjudasbrown.com.

 

 

 

 

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