Why I became a writer

by limebirdsally

Well first and foremost I write because I love writing. I’m lucky with my job as a social research director as I get to write in a range of different styles – proposals, Government reports for publication, social commentary articles in the industry press, marketing materials etc. And of course my greatest love of all outside of work is to unleash my imagination and weave words into exciting fictional adventures.

With a hint of bashfulness I’ll also state that I write because I’m good at it. Actually, scrap the bashfulness – I’m a good writer, fact. To me writing feels as instinctive as talking; sometimes even more so.

So let’s summarise; I write because I love it and because I’m good it. Bearing in mind that the vast majority of people reading this post are also writers, I very much doubt I’m saying anything you wouldn’t say about yourselves. In fact for many of you I’ve visited your blogs and can speak on your behalf – you also write because you love it and because you’re good at it!

But it was a recent post by fellow limebirder Raven on her personal blog about her dreams that got me thinking more specifically about what prompted my dream to be a published writer; to not just write, but to write and publish books. For me it was when I was an insecure teenager with hormones demonising my life and the world telling me I should feel misunderstood. I’ve been blessed to have a huge, brilliant family and had a stable, happy upbringing. Yes, we had financial worries, but my parents took care to keep them from us. I went to a good school and I was academically strong. I had an active enough social life, and maybe I was on the outskirts of the ‘cooler kids’ at school, but I did okay. I was blessed enough to have nothing to rebel against and no real hardships to overcome.

So what did my hormone-addled brain do? Of course it decided I was far too ordinary – that was my hardship in life. I wanted to be a rock star, or an actress, but I was far too average for such pursuits. How was I going to make my mark on the world?

With my writing of course! Lots of people are good at writing, but not everyone has the passion, discipline or ability to channel that into writing full length novels. And if there’s something I have in droves it’s determination.

Brit pop summer 1995 was my first year hitting the indie clubs off Tottenham Court road as a seventeen year-old. No drugs or alcohol for me – who needs stimulants when music is this good? Instead I popped a few Pro Plus caffeine pills to keep me awake (yes I see the contradiction with my previous statement!) and danced through to closing time, returning home on the night bus so wide awake that I’d stay up writing until morning. By the end of the summer I’d not only discovered the indie classics that will stay with me for life, but I’d built up quite a good portfolio of writing. When I saw a creative writing competition advertised at school I decided to enter it. I told myself, ‘If I win this competition it means I will become a published writer one day.’

I was stunned when I actually won.

A girl in my year, very popular, an exceptional dancer and actress who’d been the lead in the school play was nice enough to seek me out and give me her congratulations (to her credit, this was with no hint of bitterness), “Wow, you must be really good. I entered this competition too but didn’t win.” She didn’t share any of my classes so she didn’t know I was academically strong, in fact I’m not sure we’d ever spoken to each other before.  But it was clear that in her mind I’d changed from just being a girl in her year called Sally into a girl in her year called Sally, who’s good at writing.

I’m old enough now to have accepted my nose is never going to magically shrink, nor will my 5’4 pear shape suddenly stretch into model-like proportions. More importantly, I’m old enough to accept that these things wouldn’t make my life perfect anyway. Of course I still have my insecurities, but I’m not the hormone-befuddled teenager I once was and over time my writing dream has morphed away from being an insecure teenager’s need to make her mark on the world into a desire to make a living doing something I love. I’ve had to be realistic and accept that few published writers are able to earn a good living out of writing so I’ve worked hard to build a career in social research that is still something I love and find fulfilling. The writing dream persists though and I’m sure always will.

So being completely honest here I think my writing dream grew from an insecure teenager’s need to take something that gave her confidence and seek external validation about who she was and what her role was in this world from it.

I’d love to know: what made you become a writer?

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27 Comments to “Why I became a writer”

  1. Hi Sally,

    What an interesting post. I’m so glad to know how you got your start in the biz! Sounds like you have a plan in action, keeping writing in your life even though it might not be easy. That is a good thing. What a moment for you when you won the contest, and that girl came up to congratulate you. That’s so awesome, something that will stay with you forever.

    I became a writer for many reasons. As a child, writing was a form of escape. As a teen, I realized I was actually good at it (and I didn’t think I was good at much), so I kept up with it. As an adult I was definitely confused over what I wanted to do with writing, because of the demands. But when I saw I wasn’t all that happy or fulfilled when I wasn’t writing, I knew I had to get back to it.

    Now I know that writing for me is as natural as breathing. I feel like I’m bonded to writing, like it’s a part of me. That’s why I became a writer.

    • I’m just on tenterhooks waiting for that agent to get back to you on your ms – it’s almost as if I’ve got my own awaiting a decision! You’ve certainly taken things to a whole new level by becoming 4am writer and disciplining yourself out of accepting any excuses you might make to yourself. It’s incredibly inspiring to all of us.

      That was a great post you recently wrote on your write year http://4amwriter.com/2012/02/08/the-write-year/

  2. I can really relate to what you are saying, Sally, except that it took me a lot longer to realise that writing was in my blood. I wrote a piece with a similar theme, “Writing Avon Street.” I wonder now why I waited so long to give myself permission to think of myself as a writer.

    • Ah yes I just went and had a look at that – sounds as if you work(ed?) in the same industry as me. Being a good writer is a huge advantage in the world of research – I don’t think many people realise it’s not actually about standing on street corners administering questionnaires!

      The cover of Avon street looks beautiful. Incredibly evocative of the darker side of Victorian times.

  3. Like you I had a normal, loving upbringing. How did I stand out? My writing. I was never confident enough in my abilities to pursue the writing thing – I let life happen instead. I’ve recently gone back to writing and it’s like a hole has been filled. As long as I’m not putting too much on my plate, I can enjoy the creativity of it as well as the hard work of rewrites.

  4. That was an inspiring story Sally! Like you I had a very happy childhood and if anything I was too sheltered from the world and all its wonders and disasters. I always adored books, and spent most of my time in the local library or reading, but never had the confidence to actually write something. English was my favourite at school and I excelled at Creative Writing of course. But it would take another 10 years before I actually wrote my first novel properly and sent it out into the world. Now I am a fully-fledged writer and proud to be so. Let us all stand up and be recognized for our talents!

    • Thank you for commenting. I love your blog name! Your blog and stories look really imaginative so all those hours spend in the library away from the ‘real world’ must have been well spent. Congratulations on getting your work out there.

  5. I’ve only recently started taking my writing seriously really. I’ve always known I enjoyed it, but have only ever dabbled before. My first sign that it might be something for me was when I was about 19 (I think!) – I used to enter a lot of competitions (non-writing ones I mean) and I had a go at a short story writing competition run by Black Magic chocolates; I came second and won a weekend for 2 in Paris, it was a real shock, I had no idea that writing might be something I could do, I had only entered because I liked competitions in general. Since then I have occasionally ‘had a go’ at different forms of writing. I was runner up in a short scene screenwriting competition a few years ago, and a runner up in a poetry writing contest.

    My day job is at a university, so I get to write some similar things to you in your day job, and it was my boss who encouraged me to take my writing further when she saw some of the materials I produced etc. Then a few months ago I pitched myself to a magazine to write a little monthly piece, and they said yes, so I do that every month (and get paid for it, yay!), and I started my blog, and have begun writing a book, and so now I’m really rolling with it and loving it!

    It’s only taken me just over 20 years since that first competition win to realise that it’s what I really want to do!

    • What a fantastic story, thank you for sharing it Vanessa. It’s great that you’ve made all those opportunities for yourself in such a range of writing areas and been so successful with them. The magazine pitch is such a brave thing to do. All the best for your book, something tells me it’s going to be a success.

  6. Thanks for sharing your great experience Sally! Good for you for saying you’re a good writer, because you are!

    Honestly, I’ve always been writing, mainly using it as escapism from everything else. My job title is a Copywriter, so I guess that has writer in the title, but I still find it hard to describe myself as a writer in the non working sense. Yes, I write blogs, yes I write random things, but apart from Nano, I haven’t written a proper book.

    This is one of the things on my bucket list; to write a book and have it published (either self or properly), but I just don’t know if I’m quite there yet. Maybe one day, but we’ve all got to start somewhere right?

    • I’m just as honest about the long list of things I’m bad at, so why be self-effacing on the writing!

      There are certainly different ways of using your writing skills, so even if your published book is still on the horizon, you’re clearly doing a great job of using your many writing talents in diverse areas and having successfully completed nano without being put off I say you’ve earned the right to consider yourself a writer. I hereby bestow the title of ‘writer’ on limebirdbeth.

  7. Great post! I think there is a big difference between people who enjoy writing and people who commit to it as a potential career. Lots of people say they want to write or have written a book. (My AAA driving instructor, my first year college advisor, etc.) But actively pursuing writing as a career requires so much dedication and effort. It’s taking that love and talent and really committing to it. And it’s great that there are bloggers like you who share about their journeys!

    • Thanks so much, Annie. Yes there are lots of people who say they’re going to write a book one day; or they have that one great book in them but never actually do any writing! I’m not sure there are many published writers who just sat down one day on the spur of the moment and wrote a book…well aside from the celebrities who magically get a book written during the costume changes of their life show of course.

      I love having a blogging community that brings people together and takes it away from being a solitary dream into something you can talk about and motivate each other on.

  8. Great post! I enjoyed reading it.

    I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t being a writer. I wrote short chapters in a 3″x5″ inch notebook when I was 7 or 8 years old. I wrote soap operas when I was in grade school. I wrote off and on during my marriage and motherhood and now finally in my retirement I have authored and published a 5 book young teen historical fiction series. I love writing!

    • Thank you Dorothy, that’s very kind. I think it’s great that you’ve tried so many different styles. I definitely flit from genre to genre trying to find one that works for me. I’ve never tried soap operas though – do you still have those? Must be quite funny reading back something you wrote at school! Congratulations on the teen historical fiction. Is your blog new, so details will follow?

  9. Great post Sally! I identified with a lot of the hormone-driven moments in your life 😉 If I were being one hundred percent honest – and writers have to be, or they’re wasting everyone’s time – my original childhood reason was escape. In the pre-internet, videogame, DVD player, etc. universe, I wrote stories to escape my life, and – like you – to also make myself into something that was not ordinary. In some ways, the essence of that is still there, but now I revel more in the joy of creating something from nothing. A much better reason I think!

  10. To me, writing is still just a dream. I’m still in college, and actually pursuing a different career field. I write as a way of taking myself somewhere else. I write to figure out problems in my life, and I write because I simply love doing it. I’m a music major, but words and music pretty much do the exact same thing to me; I love them both. Also, I have stories that are created in my mind spurred by something else that happens, but I’m not quick and witty to share them as my sister would, so I write them down for a smile. I guess writing allows time for thought, whereas words otherwise come far too quickly. (Just another reason I love it!)

    • Oh I definitely understand how music can create the same emotion as writing. I play the piano to a frustratingly mediocre level and would love nothing more than to be able to play the way I want to hear the music. I’m jealous you’re good enough to study music at an advanced level! Writing feels a lot easier in that respect because it just comes without having to work at it, although that said, since I started learning about the craft by visiting blogs and hearing other people’s experiences, my writing has become a lot tighter.

      The writing allowing time for thought is something I definitely relate to as well, I hadn’t really thought about it in that way. Thank you for commenting!

  11. As a kid I always read. It got to the point, when I was about 9-10 years old, that I was banned from the class library as I would rush my work so that I could go and grab a book.

    Moving into secondary school, I enjoyed writing but one bad experience with a teacher (see my blog http://dmlbooks.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/screw-you for details) put me off for a long time.

    I did keep a diary for the two years that I was a volunteer in Nigeria, but that’s about it.

    Then, in 2005, I found a poetry site and started to write poems to post there. A lot of people liked them, so I thought that I must be doing something right. A published playwright, who also happens to be a work colleague, saw some and said I should publish, but I didn’t do anything about it. But I kept on writing…

    Finally my partner nagged me, she said that I shouldn’t procrastinate (she loves that word!) but just go ahead and publish; which I did (in 2010) and things grew from there. Now I see being a writer as me while what I do as a job is just work.

    I didn’t really go to town with the publicity side of things for my poetry collection, but I am learning, and will do things differently for my novel and my genre collection.

    So, to summarise, I have always been a writer; it just took a long time for it to come out!

    • I just read that post and screw you Mr Robinson, indeed! I kind of get his point in that he asked for something and felt you didn’t stick to the brief, but to shoot you down like that is lazy teaching. Surely he could have recognised how the Island was a character in your story and given you praise and encouragement for what you created. That’s terrible that it put you off for so long.

      I’m so glad you came back to it!

  12. Great post, Sally. Great job taking pride in what you do and having confidence to say you’re good at it! I have to agree with Beth in that it’s difficult to call myself a writer, as I recently turned 39 and I’ve only technically been writing (other than about ten poems ten years ago) for about six months.

    It is a VERY long story how I came to the realizations that a) I wanted to write, b) I SHOULD write and c) I’m good at writing. I’d never even considered the possibility prior to that time. I suppose I had some desire when I was a child. I’d feel this overwhelming need to write something, but then when I’d put pen to paper, I had no idea what to say. It hurt not to write, but without knowing what to say, I’d only copy down lyrics to songs. It helped, but didn’t ease the need completely.

    Since then, I’ve grown so used to pain of all sorts that I don’t notice it any longer, and/or the need has faded. The biggest motivation for me now is that I’ve been so much happier since I started writing. I feel I have a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning, even if my day is too busy to write, I know I at least have time to read a blog and learn something or work on my platform a little.

    Lately I’ve tried to make a goal to at least write a couple of sentences, even on the days I don’t really have time. It helps. Mind you, I’m still writing daily, just not necessarily what I want to write. Anyhow, I’ll share the whole story another day.

    Thanks again, Sally. You inspire me!

    • Aw, thanks Raven. You have to cope with so much, I’m in awe at how much you achieve and for being able to share in this way. Writing is clearly a huge part of who you are and you have to keep on doing the things that make you happy. x

  13. It’s interesting to read about how people got to be what they are.
    Me, I have a blog, but only because I can’t paint, so I can’t really call myself A WRITER. Not like serious people who write serious stuff and seriously do it for a living. But I still like to hang around with Real Writers, because it makes me feel like one of the cool kids.
    😉

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