So here’s the thing: I haven’t always wanted to be a writer. I haven’t been writing as long as I can remember. I bring this up because I often hear writers asked some variation of: “When did you know you wanted to be a writer.”
Yeah – that question, or something similar, always seems to come up in interviews of authors and the answer often goes along the lines of “Always.” This makes me feel weird, because that wouldn’t be my answer. I wasn’t even sure what my answer would be.
This post was going to be a set of mini-reviews about the new line of comic titles from Monkeybrain comics, but a funny thing happened. When I started writing that post I suddenly discovered my answer to this ubiquitous question. I hope you’ll forgive the hippie navel-gazing sound of this (and everything that follows) but here it is. My answer:
I never wanted to be writer, but I’ve always, and for most of my life in a subconscious way, wanted to be a storyteller.
I love stories. I have always loved stories. Books, TV shows, movies, documentaries, musicals, theater, good conversations, good journalism, history. I love all these things, and they are all about stories. I think now that writing was always there, waiting for me to pick it up. It was never the only option for me, but it is the best option for me. Writing is the path I’m am best suited to walk as a storyteller.
When I look back and try and understand what it was I used to want to do with my life I find that I may have seemed somewhat aimless for most of it. What I wanted more than anything was for my life to be a good story. When picking a University I was absolutely desperate to not go to the one in my hometown. This, I must say, was financially stupid considering I could have achieved an equally useful education in my hometown for far cheaper. For me though, I had to leave home. That was the better story.
In University I nearly flunked out of my second semester of second year, thanks to many factors that could best be summed up now as: I was not happy with how the story was unfolding. I dedicated myself in my third year though because I had created a new story for myself: meeting all the requirements for a minor in philosophy in a single year and graduating a year earlier than planned. It helped I was also terrified of actually failing University and having wasted a lot of money and several years of my life.
After University I again tried to make an interesting story – moving to a new city I’d never lived in, rooming with one of my best friends and seeing what life would bring. What it brought was crappy jobs and financial worry that might have made for a good story, but a pretty shitty daily existence. It was fun for a few months, but it wasn’t the right answer for me. So I went and found a new option that could make for a great story:I decided to move to S. Korea to teach English for a year. Well, that year has now turned into eleven and the Korean chapters of my story have included gaining a wife and a son.
Eleven years is a long time to be living the same sort of life, at least it is for me, and I probably wouldn’t have spent eleven years doing anything else. Luckily, living in another country, having he opportunity for lots of travel, having several different stages to my teaching career, getting married and raising a son have kept my life interesting.
Still, several years ago I started to feel a need. I realized I wanted to start doing more than consuming stories and trying to live the most interesting one I could. I described it at the time as needing “a creative outlet.” What I now know I should have said was: “I need to tell stories.”
Last Fall I picked up a book by Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig). I’m not sure if it was “Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey” or “250 Things You Should Know About Writing.” Doesn’t matter, you should go buy both if you don’t already have them. They’re great. Caveat: lots of “bad” language. Anyway, I started reading the book and it struck me – “hey I think I could write.”
The idea started bouncing around my head and gaining momentum whenever it struck the inside of my skull. I wrote a story. It sucked. I even submitted it a couple times, but now I wish I hadn’t. The idea kept bouncing though and on April 29th, 2012 I plunked down some money for this website and declared myself committed to making it as a writer.
So now I have my answer. The tl;dr version above is the “long story.” The short story is:
April 29th, 2012. Or maybe Last Fall. Or maybe always.