As a soon-to-graduate English major, I think about this quite a bit: 1) because people ask me all the time; and 2) because I generally have to write one or two reflective pieces on this topic every year.
This post could also be titled, “How I’m becoming a writer,” because I think that being a writer is a process of becoming. There isn’t one defining moment; I didn’t get bitten by a radioactive bookworm and suddenly have the power to shoot well-fashioned phrases from my mouth.
Each day that I write–because I want to, because I have to–makes me a writer. It doesn’t make me a good writer, necessarily, but I do believe that it’s making me a better writer.
When people ask me why I’m an English major, I usually say something general like, “Well, I’ve always loved to read and write…” Actually, that’s not true. I’ve always loved having stories read and told to me, but there was about a six month gap between the day I learned to read and the day I learned to love to read. Let’s be real here, learning to read is hard.
Writing was like that for me as well. First, there is the process of learning how to physically form the letters. Then you have to learn how to put them in the right order to make the words that you want. Then you have to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Even though I have the mechanics of writing down pretty well now that I’m 22, I’m still working on that last part: content and style.
When I was in elementary school, I wrote a bunch of cute, silly little poems. I also started keeping a journal sporadically (under the influence of a series of books written in the form of diaries). I had fun with writing the way young children often do, expressing myself creatively but with a hefty dose of imitation. Some of what I wrote could be described as proto-fanfiction, because it featured characters from the books I was reading at the time.
I was writing, but I didn’t think of myself as a writer. That wasn’t until later, when I was perhaps 14. I guess you could say I found my voice. I wrote a poem that was different than the other poems I’d always written. It was like I could hear a rhythm behind the words, like the language was speaking through me. I read through that poem after I’d written it, and I remember thinking for the first time that perhaps I had something only I could say.
To me, that is the heart of writing: saying something in a way that only you could say it. That was the moment I knew I was a writer. Was I a writer before that moment, before I found my own voice? Maybe not.
This post was inspired by a writing challenge from the Daily Post. I’ve linked to it above, so if you’re interested in reading other writers’ “origin stories,” check it out! If you have a story about how you became/are becoming a writer, I would love to hear it, so please share it in the comments 🙂