The first story I remember writing was in kindergarten and was heavily borrowed from an episode of the animated ghostbusters TV show. In it, a boy and a girl went to a castle and somehow or other had cloaks that spat out fireballs. The only other thing I remember was that I forgot to put ground underneath the castle when I drew the pictures, so it was hanging mid-air.
This was, incidentally, the same year that I thought my best friend was a boy named Canyon (her name, twenty five years later is still Kenyon, and she’s still a girl), Kristina Stevens had a worm in her oreo, and I colored a worksheet about the letter K in purple so well that I decided that purple was my favorite color.
But I digress.
I wanted to talk about (write about, whatever) the idea that there are many stages of becoming a writer. There’s a whole taxonomy of evolution from the kid who did ghostbusters (TM) fan fiction in elementary school to the published novelist with a book deal (which I am not). All of those paths, and all of those stages of evolution are completely okay. In writing, and in much of life, one size does not fit all.
I fell into writing somewhat accidentally. At age 12 or 13 I found a book called In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. She wrote it at age 14 and it was a hit. Basically, vampires before vampires were done-to-death and sparkly. When high school hit, and I discovered the internet, I joined an online group associated with the world the book was written in, became friends with one of the webmasters of a fan site (hi Kel!) and ultimately, a friend of Amelia.
And, because we were the cool kids, everyone was writing a book. There are worse kinds of peer pressure.
My first novel, Vampire Lord, was written my sophomore year of high school. I failed Geometry and most of my other classes because I was more interested in my main character, Nathaniel Edgars, than I was in equations and classes.
But I don’t think I was a writer then. Not when I went to college and got a degree in Writing, either. And maybe not even in grad school when I got a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts in Popular Fiction with emphases in Pedagogy and Literary Theory.
There came a point where things changed for me. For a long time, I could write or not. I mean, sure, I scribbled poems or notes to myself on my phone, or on napkins or pieces of paper. But that’s writing, not being a writer.
Perhaps it was when I started writing my second novel At the Heart of the World is a City in earnest. Or when I started submitting stories for publication regularly. I found that writing had stopped being a take-it-or-leave-it activity–I couldn’t not write. Writing became how I processed the world, how I saw things, how I unwound and how I dreamed.
That isn’t to say I don’t do those things in other mediums, but my preference is to do it through writing. Even in November, when I don’t work on projects (The Curse of NaNoWriMo) I still find myself scribbling notes or thinking about stories or making blog posts. That’s how I know i’m a writer. And when December 1 hits, I’ll be back to the wordmines, ready to see what comes next.