How I Became a Writer
From a young age, I had the urge to write down what I was thinking, from wild imaginings to random thoughts to dreams. My family had a GUI-free computer in which I stored my early work. I also wrote down a lot of ideas in graphic form.
Curiously, in 1990, I had a series of sketches for the story of a young lion whose uncle forced him out of the kingdom. The lion then befriended a rodent and a pig who helped him reclaim the throne. No, I had never seen Kimba: The White Lion nor had The Lion King come out yet.
I likely wouldn’t have had much success as a writer without having consumed as many books, articles, plays, and scripts as I did. I read voraciously in school, so much so that my school bestowed upon me the honor of “Accelerated Reader.” I was a frequent visitor to our book fair, eagerly snapping up Roald Dahl, Madeline L’Engle, Judy Blume, and Paul Zindel.
I got so involved in my books that I once missed my bus stop because I was engrossed in a book. The bus driver refused to let me off at a non-designated stop and ours was the last stop on the route, so he took me back to the school. This led to my parents’ panic when I failed to come home, and their half-joking suggestion that I stop reading on the bus.
They did unsuccessfully try to get me to stop bringing my books to the dinner table, but overall, my parents were supportive of my obsession. As journalists, they understand the importance of written communication and instilled a passion for truth in me.
As I began writing school papers, I was met with an odd mixture of teachers who were thrilled to have me bring my passion for writing into their classrooms and teachers who seemed threatened by my zeal. I did get several talking-tos for going over the requested word count. Some were amused and some seemed to take it personally.
Despite all my As, no one called me out on my bad habits, such as my fondness for adverbs and dangling modifiers, until graduate school, when my professor, Dr. Ray, shamed me in front of the class for those things. I was mortified to get my papers back covered in red marks and angry that he was ignoring my Great Ideas and focusing on my grammar. But I got over it, because I wanted to be better.
I credit him with my ability to land a job with the title Writer. (Yes, they exist.) And so my writing career officially launched. Because I was exclusively writing nonfiction after years spent writing academic papers, I drifted away from my childhood goals to publish a bestselling novel or get my screenplay picked up. Although I have a couple of fiction drafts, telling the stories of the Real World and its stranger-than-fiction characters is what I love doing.
When I tell people I’m a writer, I get the occasional eye roll or quip about how much time I spend at Starbucks or question about what my “real job” is. I feel bad on behalf of those aspiring playwrights fueled by vanilla lattes, then I explain that actually, I am employed as a writer.
Even as I type that now, it baffles me a bit. I never expected my childhood passion to become my career. But I’m glad it did. It gives me a chance to not only tell the stories of fascinating people and things, but it also gives me a way to connect to the world. A way to change the world. For that, I’m grateful.