The idea of shaping writers doesn’t only amuse me but it infers that writers are like amoeba. They try to sit in their chairs at work but keep falling off the side, unable to sit up straight. At dinner, the guests have to pick the writer up off the table because their almost-liquid face is getting into the soup. The only way these writers are able to get from one place to another is that they have to pay people or rely on their disgruntled family members to escort them in a wheelbarrow.
This is not what the prompt is referring to, obviously, but the imagery was too wild to ignore.
There are a few reasons (or people) that made me into the “writer” that I am today or what I aspire to be. Writers are born writers, unfortunately. No one chooses to get a job putting words on the page because it has job security or health benefits. The choice happens because the person is unable to do anything else well. Normal jobs, relationships, friends, getting up in the morning are chores for people who write. Even sitting down in front of a screen is like pulling teeth. But once the words start forming into sentences and paragraphs multiply, it’s one of the more natural experiences in their lives.
So, yes, writing is something that I feel forced to do because it’s inherent to who I am — my identity.
But there are people who guided me.
Stephen King came into my life early in high school. Before reading his novels, I watched several of the films he was behind either in name or actually handling the script. One day, while perusing the bookstore’s fiction section, I found his section. Book after book with his name on the spine. What’s with this guy? I thought. Is he like a Patterson or Koontz who pump out novels without substance? I had to see why he was popular and ingrained in our culture. My fingers landed on THE GUNSLINGER which happened to be an epic series of seven books spanning a fictional world. It clicked. His writing, storytelling and characters were developed but without pretension. He just wrote well. I read through THE DARK TOWER series, as it was called, in about a month. SALEM’S LOT, IT, THE STAND, and INSOMNIA were incredibly, dark, horrifying reads that made me question my closet at night. I knew that I wanted to write like him — write stories that people could not forget. You’ll always find someone who has a story about how The King scared them all those years ago.
In my senior year of high school, I was in an English class to end all English classes. The title of the course was called “Great Books” and was taught by this lovely, energetic sixty year old woman who believed snowflakes came from aliens. She encouraged us with creative writing and some days, instead of talking about the books we read, she made us free write. Now, this got me to want to write even more but at that time, I was also blogging. It wasn’t good blogging, it was just teen angst filled with sexual frustration. Anyway, around Christmas that year (or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or Festivus or whatever) she pulled out an audio recording of a person who dressed up like an elf for Macy’s to help with Santa. This hysterical essay entitled “The Santa Land Diaries” was written and recorded by David Sedaris. His form of writing changed everything for me. You’re telling me you can be funny, poignant, AND intellectual? Not only was the content great but he wrote essays, not novels. I could do that!
I recently had the chance to meet David Sedaris and spoke with him about the influence he had on me. It was an experience that left me shaking. I just met a god! He was lovely and I was able to meet his partner, Hugh, as well. I saw him later that night on stage and he did what I hoped to someday do. Spoke the words he wrote to the people he was making fun of.
So, my story of how I became a writer or what shaped me has more to do with those who guided my arm to the page. Years of practice have taught me more than any teacher, but I am glad I paid almost one hundred thousand dollars to learn how to form a sentence. I’ll keep on doing what I do and hope that people like what I have to say. Even if no one likes my ideas or words, it’s fine, it was always about me anyway.