When did you first begin to write, and who or what inspired you? What age were you? What did you write? What were your greatest obstacles? Tell us your story in the comments.
To get the ball rolling, here’s my story
I’m often asked what got me writing or what book or author inspired me. Such questions are irrelevant because I think I was born a writer. It has always been intrinsic. Characterization and scene construction go back to my earliest memories.
“Story-in-my-head” memories go back to ages three and four, possibly two. I was making up characters, using inanimate objects to portray characters, and giving toys feelings as if they were human.
In grade one and two, I learned to spell and write, the best tools a young writer could hope for.
At the end of grade two, I came home with four booklets with many unused pages left inside that we never filled up in class. They were early elementary exercise notebooks with half a page blank and half a page lined–perfect for drawing pictures and writing stories.
I’ll never forget those booklets, my prized possessions that year. In school, we had covered them in construction paper (red, blue, yellow, and green, I believe), so they were colour coded by school subject but also looked nice. I simply tore out the school work and–voilà!–they made perfect young writer notebooks.
I never had invisible friends but always had characters in my head whose lives were separate from my own. I took mental notes about life and the people around me, and along with my own discoveries, applied the experiences to my characters’ world.
At age 11 and 12, I drew all my characters with coloured pencils. I wasn’t a talented artist, but by age 17, I could draw some reasonably good 6B pencil portraits with shading.
I decided to write a novel in summer 1975, when I was 11. (That dream would not be realized for another 36 years.) That summer was a turning point in my writing career. Henceforth I became a serious, committed writer who wrote everything down.
In summer ’75, I had a thick, full-size, 8.5 by 11 inch notebook, which I covered in tinfoil for lack of construction paper–because who wants to write an novel in something entitled “Exercise Book”? I taught myself how to punctuate and paragraph dialogue. I wanted my novel to look like a real book.
Some of my book ideas came from dreams, especially images, which served as picture prompts.
Throughout junior high, high school, and university, I jotted down observations, vocabulary, and real snippets of conversations on little pieces of paper, often torn from the corners of my school notes, and sometimes written on napkins in cafeterias. I had a box at home to store these little treasures of inspiration and knowledge. (No smart phones, tablets, or computers for note taking and storage in those days.)
I started many novels in my teens, but could never finish them because I was changing too fast, which kept altering my story plots and writing style.
Without Internet, my research in those days was limited to personal experience, listening to people, “interviewing” people about their experiences, eavesdropping on conversations, and what I could glean from books and movies, which inspired me but never hit the mark for the specific information I needed.
My greatest obstacle as a young writer, other than lack of experience and lack of Internet, was lack of access to anything that would help me to write better–to write like an author. Teachers refused to comment on my personal work (probably a good thing, since English teachers are not industry editors and “correct” differently, but a little feedback would have been better than none), no courses were available to me, and certainly no living authors could be accessed.
Those were not the days of writers-in-residence or bookstore author signings. What I would have done to talk to a living author!