What Makes a Writer?

I was a “writer” long before I could put pen to paper to form legible words.  I remember dictating stories to my mother when I was about four, and illustrating them afterwards.  “The Girl with the Hat” was my first composition; I believe my mother has it tucked away in my baby book.  I seem to recall it was about a poor girl who wore a big hat everywhere, even keeping it after her fortunes changed and she became a queen.  I also remember that everyone lived for many years, Bible style, and that they were buried at the end in caves.  Happily ever after didn’t cover enough territory, I guess.
What kind of writer I am is hard to put into words.  I wrote prize-winning poems in grade school, but I’m no poet.   Before I graduated from high school I had written–in longhand–two books, which brought great delight to my classmates and my sister but had no hope of being fit for publication.  I wrote some really good X-Files fanfiction, but I don’t have the desire–nor, I think, the ability–to create my own characters and breathe life into them.   In college I could crank out two grade A papers in about three hours, but there’s not much use for that skill in post-academic life.   I edited my high school paper, was a correspondent for the Catholic press for years, and of course wrote a column on life issues, but I don’t really burn with a desire to seek truth, journalist fashion.
Certain “great writer” requirements are missing from my make up, I fear.  I did not have a tragic childhood and I am not living a terrible life (yes, it’s difficult some times, but I’ve come to know that it is in the nature of life to be difficult!).  And I just don’t have that drive that makes some people (like my daughter Emily, whom I think of as a “real” writer) write constantly, filling up notebooks with stories and quotations and story ideas and possible character names.
I always feel a little sheepish when people praise my writing, because there is no virtue in it, no hard work.  I write as naturally as I breathe.  I never had to go back and polish my college papers after writing them (which drove my roommate, who spent hours coming up with just the right words, crazy)  but I no more deserve acclaim for that than for having blue eyes.  And maybe that’s the issue–essentially I am too lazy to be a “real” writer, who spends hours writing every day, honing her craft, whether she has any writing “assignment” or not.
All I know is that I am comfortable with a pen in hand (or with fingers on keyboard); that to write a gooddecent grammatical sentence is effortless; that I love writing and editing anything, even grant proposals or letters to clients.  And perhaps most important, that when I am upset about something, writing about it is a natural instinct–even if I never actually write down the words, I narrate them in my head as though I were writing them.  Many times when I sit down to write something I am really just “recording” what I have already composed internally.
All of the foregoing probably explains why blogging is a perfect medium for me–I can write about what I want, in whatever form I want, whenever I want, and I even get occasional feedback, which I love.  Thanks for indulging me.

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  1. March 2, 2012

    […] I write well. Or so I’m […]

  2. April 25, 2012

    […] like to think I am a good writer.  I’ve been making up stories before I could write them down.  I was co-editor of my high school paper and won awards back in […]

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