On Becoming A Writer

The story of how I came to want to be a writer is not unlike any others. I was drawn to it, almost as if by accident, through some other passionate interest. I was in the eighth grade and at that time—and still now—I was very much into the responsible use and protection our natural resources. I liked camping, hiking, and just generally being outdoors and if asked would have named some mountain, desert, river or coast as the place I most wanted to visit. One day, my English teacher, a lady of which I remember very little about but who apparently believed it her job (rightly so) to help children discover their potential, suggested I enter a youth essay contest on why it was so important that society protect these natural resources. I entered the contest and won.

We all know that sometimes it takes someone else pointing out a talent to make us aware of it ourself and this is what happened to me with writing. I discovered not only that I liked it, but if I was passionate and wrote truthfully about a thing I could make the words mean something to someone else. From that moment on I felt encouraged, excited and even entitled, in some respect, to write.

But as it goes, talent take time to develop. And it also takes work. One of the most important aspects to the process though is that you write about something you care about or the talent to make others see what you see and feel what you feel will be lost. Recognition can work against you, too, giving the false impression that anything you write will be received well, which is just not so. In choosing to write about child custody, I was choosing a topic I was very close to personally, at least in terms of my witness of a hotly contested case. I, too, have loved and lost and been unjustly misunderstood.

Even then, the novel took several years to write, time partly and intermittently spent discovering the way in which how to tell the story and then on the story itself. There were many stop and goes, dead ends, and detours, but with each of these I felt I was steadily getting closer to the heart of the novel, even when not working on it, even in my darkest days of which I won’t go into here, but evolved into months and years when writing fiction felt like a violation of parental responsibility. The hard part is pushing through these and remaining committed to telling the truth, which is what Hemingway once said, was the writer’s job anyway.

It was no accident that Anna Miller lost child custody, nor was her son’s kidnapping accidental. Strong intention can and often does level the playing field. But without action intention serves little or no purpose. For an early lesson in that, I have an eighth grade English teacher to thank.

To follow the discussion on my Goodreads Question and Answer, click here.

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