Saturday, May 16, 2009

Born to Write

Do you believe in predestination?  Are we born to write, to act, to paint, to be mommies or accountants?  Or is it Karma?  Is this our reward, our fulfillment?  Perhaps our punishment.  In his wonderful little book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says that basically every human being is born with God-given, unique talents, and if you don’t use them, then you are a wastrel and an ingrate. (I paraphrase.)

Therefore, if you are driven to write (paint/parent/account), you must write, or fly in the very face of God.  

How’s that for motivation?

Like most authors I know, I began writing when I was a child.  In fact, I can’t remember when I didn’t write little stories.  The earliest piece I remember clearly was called “The Black Cat”.  The protagonist was a little girl who turned into a cat every night.  I don’t remember what she did.  I don’t think she used her powers to save kittens from storm drains, or any other catly heroics.  I only remember her drinking cream from a saucer on the floor.  Apparently she didn’t retain her human moral values when she transformed.

I loved to make up stories mostly because I loved to read stories.  When I was a girl, the world in fiction was as real to me as my actual life, if not more so.  Before I could read, I adored being read to - and here’s the key - I was read to, continually.  I was given picture books when I was more interested in chewing on them than looking at  them.  I therefore learned to read very early, and consequently began writing very early.  Bless you, Mama and Daddy.  You gave me a gift that influenced and enriched my entire life.

Now, being an avid reader doesn’t necessarily make one want to be a writer, but I think it is a prerequisite.  Charles suggests that it also helps to be an egomaniac, and I have to tell you, Dear Reader, that I do think a healthy self-regard is extremely helpful.  Listen, learn, be guided, and practice, and never think you can’t improve, but never let anybody write your book for you, either.  There is something each of us has to say or do that nobody else in the long history of this wide world can say or do, and if you don’t give it a try, you deprive the rest of us of your singular talent.

And speaking of singular talent, our guest blogger tomorrow is the incomparable Louise Ure, author of Forcing Amaryllis (Shamus Award for Best First Novel), The Fault Tree (currently nominated for both a Mary Higgins Clark award and a Macavity Award), and her latest, Liars Anonymous.  How does someone of that quality come up with ideas?  Tune in tomorrow.

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