I wrote this out in a lengthy Twitter thread the other night. I liked it, so I’m reposting it here… in more detail.
About twenty years ago, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to craft fun, new, relatable characters. I wanted to weave whole new worlds steeped in adventure, fantasy, & new technologies. But mostly, I simply wanted to tell stories that I hoped others would enjoy.
Well, I guess it is a bit more complicated than that… let me tell you my writer story.
As far back as I can remember, I’d always dabbled in writing. Even before I had a computer, I would type away on my mom’s old electronic word processor.
When I was in elementary school, I wrote a short story about a dog from outer space that fought an evil wizard. In junior high, I began a story where all of Earth’s sea life revolted against the evil human surface dwellers. That one… yeah that one should probably stay unfinished.
In high school, I wrote a bunch of silly, single page, nonsense short stories of the most absurd things I could imagine. Monstrous kaiju attacking cities to find cheese donuts. A lone gunman in the old west who wins his fights in an elegant prance off. You get the idea. I had dozens of these on a yellow legal pad I would carry around with me all the time, just in case a new idea came.
My senior year, I was allowed to direct a one-act short play. After a ton of research, I just couldn’t find an existing play I wanted to do. So I wrote a new one. It was called “The Clinic,” and it starred characters that were based on the Marx Brothers. Yes, I was that weird kid in high school that loved the Marx Brothers and didn’t understand why my fellow students didn’t watch old classic films.
But even with all these different (and silly) projects over the years, I had never really thought myself to be a writer. Maybe some other kids would have just known then that the written word would be their calling in life. I didn’t. I’d never thought about it that seriously. It was just something I did from time to time.
That changed when I went to college.
One day, my college roommate let me borrow the book Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I’d always been a voracious reader, but this was the first time I’d genuinely fallen in love with a book. The setting and characters just fascinated me. The story had me on the edge of my seat and my eyes moving from word to word in anticipation of what would happen next. When I finished reading it, I cried because I didn’t want it to end. That had never happened before.
Like I said, I’d always been a voracious reader, but I couldn’t recall any other book ever having such a visceral impact on me. I reread it again, and again. I talked to other people about it (“Have you read Neverwhere? Oh my god, you have too. It is so, so good.”).
I realized this is what books could do to people. It can connect with you and speak to your imagination in ways other visual mediums cannot. And it was that moment I realized that was what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be.
I was a writer.
After I decided I wanted to be a writer, I knew I was going to need to learn the craft a bit more. I changed my college major, and I started taking creative writing classes. I also borrowed another book from my roommate. It was brand new at the time, just recently released. On Writing by Stephen King.
Again, the book just spoke to me in a way I hadn’t anticipated. It was entertaining, informative, and most of all, it gave me the confidence that I could be a writer, and that I could do it well. Halfway through reading it, I went out and bought my own copy from the local Barnes and Noble.
Over the years that book was beaten to hell and back as I would pick it up and skim a few of the “toolbox” chapters whenever I felt stuck in a current story. I honestly don’t know if I would have ever finished the first draft of my first novel if it hadn’t been for On Writing.
Then, a few years ago, I let a friend borrow my beat-up copy of the book. I hoped it would give him the same inspiration it had given me years ago. Then one day, that friend up and moved away without warning… I assume he took my book with him as I haven’t seen him or it since.
Over the years, I’d thought about buying a new copy on many different occasions, but I never did. I guess I just kind of hoped my old copy of the book would somehow find its way back to me. That changed last weekend.
I’m starting work on a new novel, and I decided I had waited long enough. So I trekked to Barnes and Noble, and sure enough… they were completely sold out. The bookseller was surprised by this as she said they usually have plenty in stock. I replied, “Well, it is a great book.” She agreed and placed an order to have one shipped to my home. It arrived yesterday.
And that’s the roundabout story of how I came to be a writer and some of the books that inspired me. How about you? What is your story?