Saturday, August 27, 2005

Writing Retrospective Part One

When authors get together, conversation often drifts to these questions.

"When did you know you wanted to be a writer?"
"How long did it take you to get published?"
"What was your writing journey like?"

We are fascinated with each other's stories, because the call to be a writer is such an overwhelming force in our lives. Sometimes we're afraid we have it all wrong.

Maybe we're delusional. Maybe we were never supposed to take this road.

So, for those who are interested, I decided to trace the “call to write” in my life.
Not because I love talking about myself (although that's probably true), but because it's a chance to notice some of the amazing fingerprints of God in a life that has sometimes seemed like a hopeless muddle.

Stories always fascinated me.

I remember writing a story in second grade—horribly derivative, involving three pigs, and their homes, and their adventures in the woods. I drew paths across the page and glued Dixie-cups onto the paper to create the houses. I still remember the thrill of forming a world that felt so real with pencil, lined paper, and cups.

In third or fourth grade I crouched over an old Underwood typewriter on a day that I was home with a high fever. My two index fingers pecked out a story on sheets of onionskin paper with a carbon page between. Why carbon paper? Perhaps even then I knew that stories are meant to be shared.

I wrote a story full of pathos and anthropomorphisms—about a horse.

In sixth grade, I wrote spy stories—lurid tales with the heroine fainting, and plenty of guns and villains.

In seventh and eighth grades, I began to write songs on my guitar—melancholy expressions of adolescent pain.

In high school, I wrote to rage against war, to proclaim my faith in God in large letters, to process intense emotions. Teachers wrote comments on my papers about becoming a writer, but writing was a release (like laughing, crying, hugging) and I couldn’t imagine it as a career.

Had God planted the writing call in my heart during my childhood? If so, I never saw it as that. But I read voraciously and loved the power of words. And I continued to write—essays, short stories, poems, songs, sermons, letters, scripts.

(More to come! Tune in next week for Part Two!)

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