Who or What Made You a Writer

I’ve been rather out of it this week. Some sort of stomach bug or something and today the Headache. I’m so far behind at work I can’t even remember what it’s like to be caught up. That’s pretty normal though. Somehow everything seems to get done despite me.

Meanwhile, I’m doing what I always do when I’m overwhelmed. Procrastinating. Wait, no. I’m building my network. It’s important that I engage with the writing community. It’s part of my job. Yes. So I’ve been over at Absolute Write, reading threads and “engaging with the writing community”–you know, working. Working hard. (Look me up, I’m there under my real name. It’s Heather Head).

Anyway, today someone asked “Who or what made you a writer?” I expect it will become a popular thread. It’s a great question, and I wanted to share my answer here. Oh, by the way, I’m more than halfway through first-round revisions on my book. Yippee. Is that a light at the end of the tunnel? Probably not, but even a mirage can be motivating. Here we go.

***

Who or What Made You a Writer?

Maybe it was Grandma, Grandma shouting out that motor-home window. Probably not, though. Even if I had died, even if I had walked straight out into the road that blistery sunny morning in California, across Hwy 49 and in front of that family on their way to Yosemite driving way too fast, my nose in a book for one-more-chapter-before-school–even if I had, as I say, died that day, I still would have been a writer.

I don’t remember learning to write. Or spell. Words just always made sense to me. I remember acing my older brother’s spelling quizzes right there in front of him, my mom reading off the questions, she hushing me with that sideways frown as he stumbled over the simple words that appeared so clearly in my mind. No wonder he hated me. Maybe he made me a writer, torturing my pet ants in front of me just for fun, luring me into dangerous games with the promise of friendship that never materialized, taunting me in his quiet voice, “You don’t even know how to spell the F word, do you?” until I did, loudly, right there in the back of the car so that my parents had no choice but to punish me.

But probably not. Certainly not. Not him.

Mom or Dad, too cliched. Mom kept all my scraps, my childish attempts, in a brown paper bag now ripped and spilling its contents across my basement floor, “They’ll be important when you’re famous.” She chronicled me, but didn’t make me–not in that sense, anyway.

Maybe it was Mr. McGuiness, first grade teacher, who patiently woke me from my reading trance by touching my shoulder when it was time to move on, un-annoyed by the difficulty of gaining my attention once I was down the rabbit hole of a book. Maybe it was Mrs. McDougal, 2nd year (6th grade) teacher at St. Felix Middle School, Newmarket, England who assigned us a novel to write, and awarded mine first place against my protestations that it wasn’t fair. I was practically a professional, I thought, where was the sportsmanship in that, against a bunch of school children? It was her fault that I spent so many afternoons curled in a corner honing my story, adding chapter after chapter, drawing maps and illustrations. Or it could have been Mrs. Dodd, JD High School (won’t name it here fully for fear any piece of respect attached to me might rub off on it but Mrs. Dodd she was worth a few days in that hell anyway), who taught me to write in paragraphs, or Dr. Deal’s cigarettes and greasy hair, those creakily opening doors in my mind, the shoes thrown out the window, Paradise Lost and my first-ever C on an essay. Wine stains on white dress shirts, he laughing up into my startled face, “I really did that, I am so badass,” Jungian symbolism and drooping plants in a dusty English department lounge and me, draped across a second-hand couch with sagging springs.

Maybe it was Dr. Deal. Huntingdon College, Montgomery Alabama of all the gosh-forsaken places to open one’s mind. If it was any of them, it was him.

But probably not. I was already a writer.

Or maybe it was Grandma. The genes had to come from somewhere.

***

P.S. Who or what made you a writer? Do share.