If you ask an author what compelled them to become a writer, you will get a couple pat answers. Either one day I just started and haven’t stopped since, or it was the only thing that stopped the voices in my head. Those are pretty good but if you ask me, they dodge the question. How does one become an author? Sure, you have to start writing to become one. You can’t become anything without starting down the road in the first place.
Like with all things, it is not an over night process. You can simply write, but things like talent, skill and to me most importantly life experiences have to come into play. Something early on has to compel a person’s imagination to jump from the concept of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to creating worlds inside one’s heads. A singular event must take place. Something to drive a person inside their own imagination!
I can’t speak for everyone, so I guess I’ll give you my road to the insanity of being an author. If you’re strong enough, feel free to read on. Then again, I believe if you’ve got a weak stomach, now might be the time for you to begin running and don’t forget to take that left turn at Albuquerque.
To nail down my path to one thing, I’d have to say it all started when I was six. My memories are foggy, but a severe case of pneumonia will do that to you. I spent a lot of time in the hospital because of it. My parents and grandparents brought me the usual things to entertain a kid while I was laid up in bed. They ranged from comic books, coloring books, and toys. My favorite toy was a gorilla soldier from the Planet of the Apes. I spent hours creating adventures for that old Mego action figure to go on. Since I was basically learning to breathe again, it wasn’t like I’d be playing outside or anything. That was the birth of my overactive imagination. All my story telling instincts can be traced back to the time I spent in the hospital.
But, my road to becoming an author doesn’t end there. My love of Science Fiction found its birth there too. As I write this, something else occurs to me. back then we didn’t have cable or over five hundred channels on the television to force feed us someone else’s imagination. No, we lived in a world without channels out the ying yang and video games sucking all our time. For us, pretend were the video games. Once I healed, outside was my cable box. My brothers and I had adventures in outer space, in far flung galaxies, in the old west, in darkest Africa, in the age of knights and damsels in distress, even some trips to allied Europe during World War II. You name it, we went there. Most of the time, all we had were sticks vaguely resembling guns, on mop headed horses, or with trash can lid shields and longer sticks for swords. The point I’m making is we used our imaginations to escape. We didn’t need CGIed images on our tvs to make us happy. Well, we did later on when Atari came out, but in our early formative years, our minds were enough.
I won’t totally blame my insanity on the 70s and parents who wouldn’t spring for a ninety-seven cent Lone Ranger playset from the TG&Y. We also read because our parents read and instilled that love of reading into us. For any author, a love of reading is the birth place of writing. Before I was ten, I’d read everything from school required biographies to Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R. Tolkien, Louis L’Amour and the Hardy Boys. So, as a reader I had a foundation to spur me into becoming a storyteller.
And, I had movies. Like with the cable television, we didn’t have daily doses of movies, or even VHS tapes to keep us OCDing over movies. So, once I saw Star Wars, my parents didn’t see the need to take me for the hundreds of viewings I would have liked. No, I had it once, and kept the images alive in my head. Thanks to Kenner and Lucas licensing anything and everything, I made up my own stories set in the Star Wars universe. I didn’t stop there. I had a whole crew of stories I could make up. Captain Kirk and the gang landing on the Planet of the Apes. Spiderman and the Hulk swinging in to save the day. A lot of people see toys as childish things. That’s true, but they are so much more. They’re gateways to awakening a child’s imagination. Okay, and they’re a goldmine for people on eBay to make money off old codgers like me, who want to relive their childhood.
I wish I could claim to be a writer all on my own, without giving any credit to my educational background, but alas I can’t. Several fantastic English teachers taught me a lot about writing. My sixth grade teacher made us write journals. Since I led a very boring life, instead of a diary, she ended up with quests into Middle Earth, Narnia, and a Smurf adventure that I’m surprised didn’t get me psychiatric help. My tenth grade teacher wanted short stories. From me she got an adventure straight out of a David Lee Roth music video. Again, I’m surprised I didn’t see the inside of a padded room. Not even my Art teachers were safe. They asked for drawings or paintings. They got comic books. They must have liked what they saw, because not one asked me to stop.
When real life came calling, the story telling bug never really died. It just took a back seat until I was ready to become what I’d always been, which was a writer. Again, none of that is owed entirely to me. No, the inspiration for my life’s work came from the beautiful woman who I fooled into thinking I was normal long enough for her to say I do. She taught me that expressing myself through words wasn’t weird. Running around the house dressed like Boba Fett was though. Go figure?
Let’s get back to my original question. How do you become a writer? The answer simply put is you don’t become a writer, you’re born a writer. It’s just the stuff in-between being born and picking up a pen or keyboard that prepares you to be one.
That said, I’m going to get my Fett helmet and be weird. You guys, have a great week and a Happy Thanksgiving and whatever you do. Be thankful you’re not my wife being tortured by a Fett-headed husband yelling, ‘Into the Carbonite Chamber with you!’