I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a question I’ve gotten in several interviews, it’s the one where I’m asked, “When did I know I was a writer?”
I can pinpoint events in my life that have led me on this journey to where I am now, but to seriously say, “Hey everyone look at me I’m a writer!” I couldn’t say it was just one point.
My earliest memory of writing was in third grade. Mrs. Mattos, my teacher, gave us the assignment to write and illustrate a short story that had to do with volcanos. At that time it was the first eruption of Mt. St. Helens (please I beg of you don’t do the math). I wrote a story about a horse who dragged a giant boulder up the side of the mountain and dropped it in the crater and stopped the volcano from erupting.
Somewhere around 7th grade, I had decided I was going to be a journalist. Back then it sounded so glamorous. I could travel the world and write. My 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Cera, encouraged me to write and to keep writing. She even told my mom she knew someday I would be a writer.
In high school, I got involved with the yearbook and was taking AP English classes with Mrs. McNames. Mrs. McNames encouraged us to write and even gave us an assignment with a grade school buddy. We were to take the grade schoolers interests and work them into an illustrated story. My mother illustrated the books and I still have old photocopies around.
In college, I continued to pursue studies in Communication with an emphasis in Journalism. I was involved in the college yearbook, serving as editor in chief for two years. I took creative writing classes from Lawson Inada, who later served as Poet Laureate for Oregon. He has a fascinating story and I really enjoyed my classes with him (both creative writing and literature classes). I remember my favorite assignment was to take our favorite piece of music and write a story to it. I picked the Escape from Sherwood from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (music by Michael Kamen). My story was of a girl escaping through the forest on horseback (does anyone see a theme here) being chased by soldiers. The soldiers were trying to catch her because she was a spy during the Civil War. What you didn’t know until the very end was that the soldiers chasing her were Confederate and she was saved by Union soldiers.
By the time I finished college, I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue a career as a journalist. I enjoyed the creativity but at that time journalists were getting a bad rap (not much has changed) and that just wasn’t it for me. I started pursuing a career in marketing and graphic design, where I could be creative and write. I have been working in that field for over 20 years.
Somewhere around 2001 or 2002, I decided to try to write a book. I have a partially completed manuscript (about 40,000 words or so) of a book I called Mystic Vineyard. It’s definitely got some good points and bad points.
I didn’t seriously think about writing again until I got roped into attempting the National Novel Writing Month Challenge in 2012. With my armchair cheerleader Erin, I wrote my 50,000-word novel. I also have two more works that follow the first one, in various stages. I submitted that first work to several publishing houses. And yes, received my first rejections. One editor took the time to write to me and explain why she rejected it but encouraged me to try to do more editing on it to fix. She liked my characters!! I have over the years since spent time editing and rewriting and leaving it for a bit and coming back to it.
I started writing Cowgirl Lessons when I learned the horse my daughter took her first lessons on passed away. I had at times wanted to finish it and publish it. It was another project that took several years to complete, but once I had finally set my mind to finishing it, I actually did it! And have written a second book since.
I encourage you to set yourself attainable goals. If it’s just writing 100 words a day, do it. Call yourself a writer. Call yourself an author.
When did you decide you were a writer?