What First Inspired You To Write?
Would you believe it’s the first time I’ve thought about this?
Honestly, I don’t know what first inspired me to write, but I have an inkling of what inspired me to believe that I am a writer again.
I’ve been writing stories since I can remember. In some box, folder, or drawer, there is a white A4 page with a drawing of a cow and a flower. The two characters stand under quite possibly the wobbliest letters you will ever see, forming a couple of short sentences about how the cow and the flower meet and become friends. I don’t know if that was my first story, but it’s the first that didn’t get lost in the growing-up business. I was probably four or five and already telling people I wanted to write.
I wrote whatever I read. When I was reading stories about animals, I wrote stories about animals. When I read stories about detective kids (this was a favorite genre for a while) I wrote stories about detective kids. There’s one I wrote on a computer (I’m not that old but back then writing it on the computer was not a minor thing). It’s about three kids who bear a lot of resemblance to my brothers and myself, solving some kind of mystery in a castle. It’s terrible. It’s populated by phrases like “five minutes later, this happened” and then there is a lot of “suddenly,” and too many “and then.” It is terrible and I loved it back then.
The writing dream could have died when my family moved abroad. My vocabulary in the new language was as wobbly as the “once upon a time” letters floating above the cow. But the school had a decent library and kids learned fast. As it turns out, I half-talked, half-read myself to fluency. Around that time, I entered an Osborne Poetry writing competition and won. Faith restored. I was going to be a writer. For years I woke up writing ideas on the notebooks next to my bed, scribbles that didn’t always make sense. I wrote stories for school and soaked up my teachers’ encouragement, but outside of my assignments, I could never finish one. I started and abandoned infinite characters in word documents that got shepherded from one computer to the next over the years without ever becoming anything.
The dream of becoming an author, of actually finishing a story and sharing it, was alive and kicking, but… I began to fear that it was too hard. I would read author interviews, and all the rejection letters they received, and I’d think… what are the actual chances of me doing this? And then school was over and nobody was asking me to write anymore. I wrote for myself and without anyone forcing me to share, I didn’t. I never stopped writing, but I think I stopped believing that I’d ever get anything published.
Or at least, stopped believing it enough that I wasn’t really putting in the effort to achieve that. Fast-forward to having one of those “what do you actually want to do?” moments, years later, and there was no hesitation in my mind. Write. I love to write. I decided the first step was to get the stories out of the closet, so I started publishing on Medium. Slowly, erratically and then less so. One of my first posts got picked up for Medium’s Partner distribution (despite the punctuation errors I can’t help seeing now). It was a confidence boost. I started gaining confidence with every accepted submission, view, comment, and clap. It’s not that I needed the external validation to write, but it did help overcome the awkwardness of sharing stories after having written for myself for such a long time. More than that, it’s like the philosophical thought experiment: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If I wrote a story nobody read… did it count? On Medium, I started making a sound.
I slowly started telling people about the blog; telling people I liked to write. It made the dream feel real again. Scary real. Exciting real. I write.
As easy as it is to say “I want to be a writer,” when you are a kid, it can be a little harder when you are older. When your day job isn’t related and you can’t or don’t want to quit the day job to see if you can make it as a writer.
I don’t know what first inspired me to write, but I know that publishing here, and connecting with other people who also proudly say “I’m a writer” has definitely helped rekindle the dream.