I love getting emails from readers! I try to be good about replying to all of them, although sometimes it takes me a while.
This email, from a student who wants to be a writer and is doing a project about it for school, had questions in it that I thought would be fun to share with you, since they speak to what is cool about writing. Here are his questions, with my answers:
1. What inspired you to become an author?
I’ve loved writing (and reading) for as long as I can remember. For a long time, I couldn’t imagine how to become a published author, even though I wanted it very much. I thought it was just something that happened to other people. But finally I decided to go for it, and here I am!
2. Were you always good at writing?
I don’t know that I would call myself “always good” at writing. I don’t know if I’d even call myself good at writing now! Writing is an ever-evolving discipline. Just when you learn one thing about it, you discover that there is more to learn in another area. That said, I was always able to write relatively fast. Even more importantly, it’s one of my favorite “flow” activities – that thing which, when you do it, makes you lose track of time.
3. Why do you like writing?
Like I said in response to question #2, I really feel like I’m in the flow when I’m writing. I love the feeling of finding the right word to say something or finding a way to describe a feeling or a place in a way that really feels true. I make sense of the world through writing. Sometimes I write posts on my blog about current events, not just because I want my readers to know what I think, but because I want to crystallize my thoughts. I love the feeling I get when I’m writing. My brain is always chattering, and writing gives me a way to focus that stream of thinking.
4. Do you have anyone you look up to?
Lots of people! On the writing side, I love Margaret Atwood, Vladimir Nabokov and I just love the breathtaking surprises in the language of William Shakespeare. But more than liking individual authors, I tend to be blown away by specific books. I absolutely loved Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I also just read Chasing the Scream, a non-fiction book about the history of the drug war, that was both beautifully written and meticulously researched. I admire writers like that… I don’t think I’d ever have the discipline to write a book like Chasing the Scream.
In life, I have to say I admire people like you who decide so early on what they want to do with their lives. Even though I wrote at the age of twelve, “Most of all, I want to be a writer,” I didn’t find my way to really going for it until decades later. I sometimes wonder what my life and my career might have been like if I’d have gone for it earlier, in college and right after. I know everyone’s journey is different and I’m at peace with how I got here, but I do admire people with early and single-minded focus.
5. How cool is it being an author?
Very cool! Like with any job, though, there are less-cool aspects to it. The publishing industry comes with a LOT of rejection. Part of being a working writer is learning not to take it personally. One of my favorite things to do when I am feeling bruised by the publishing industry is to read about famous authors that were initially rejected (sometimes a lot) before going on to be wildly successful. It helps me remember that success is always possible. Here’s a great link: http://www.litrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/
Thanks, R, for the questions. And, for the rest of you, keep them coming! I will keep publishing my answers here.