As writers, we often believe we were born to write.
I certainly have early memories of my writing life. My first “novel” – a masterpiece inspired by the cartoon Jem and the Holograms – was “published” in grade three. I haven’t really stopped writing since.
“It’s in my blood,” I’ve heard writers claim. “I couldn’t not do it.” And I find, for the most part, that I agree.
However, I’ve never been one to champion Nature as the sole determinant of anything. Especially after reading a recent blog post by literary marketing expert Dan Blank about an artist’s chain of influence, which led me to examine my own early writing influences.
But not just any writing influences; not specific artists whose work has inspired mine, which would be a chain of influence of near infinite length.
Rather, I’ve been thinking about those actual people in my life whose direct and indirect influence has helped make me the writer I am today – those who make up the anchor at the end of that chain.
A much more manageable list of three:
1) My sister, the proto-writer
I have a sister seven years my senior who is also a writer.
She’s a successful journalist and editor, but as a youth, she loved creative writing. She even won a contest once.
(For the record, so did I, but it’s not a competition between us, not anymore.)
When I was young, people used to attribute my own love of writing to me copying my sister. It always annoyed me to hear this (particularly when she herself said it), for I wanted to viewed as my own person with my own spontaneous interests, not some derivation of the people around me.
That is to say, I didn’t want to be viewed as a normal human being.
But looking back on those days with the clarity of age and maturity, I’m now absolutely convinced that my sister’s writing helped inspire my own.
As a kid, I blew though my library’s holdings like a cyclone, sucking up everything in my path. I always needed more to read. Plus, I always had ideas on how to make the stories I read and watched on TV even better.
How else would it have ever occurred to me that I could fill this void with stories of my own had I not observed firsthand someone else doing just that?
2) My father, the visionary disciplinarian
One such skill was typing, which my father made me take in school in grade 11.
The class was actually pretty good: my friends were in it, the teacher was young and had lots of interesting stories about travelling, and really, typing isn’t all that difficult, particularly when you can only manage 20 words a minute (which I eventually overcame and went on to score the third highest mark of all three grade 11 classes).
But just taking the class wasn’t my father’s only directive; he also made me practice every day at home. Which it totally what a sixteen year old girl wants to do with her spare time.
The only way to make the chore even remotely bearable was thus for me to leave off with fff-space-jjj-space-style tying drills I performed in class and to start typing stories … at 20 words a minute.
(Although I now type like the wind, I’m not certain my writing typing speed has much changed.)
3) My BFF, the muse-maker
I’ve been trying to recall when it was I wrote my first original fiction. I wrote a lot of fan fiction as a kid because I didn’t really have original ideas.
Not until I befriended the new girl in grade 10.
She too was an avid reader, but read totally different books than I did. She introduced me to the fantasy genre, which still inspires me to this day even though I don’t write it anymore.
For three years, she and I also co-wrote a shared world, self-insert story via notes passed back and forth between (and during) classes.
This story had it all: fan fiction plotlines, original plotlines, poetry, artwork, humour, music. I’ve never much cared for writing exercises, but this work entailed following writing prompts on the grandest scale. We saved every page. By the end of high school, we were both able to fill a two-inch binder.
My high school bestie and I are still friends today although we now live at opposite ends of the country. I’ve always considered her my biggest fan as a writer. And as one of the very few who have read from my WIP, she’s still my biggest fan, which is a HUGE motivation to keep going and finish it.
BONUS: My mother and stepfather, the provisioners
It was them who bought me my very first computer – the computer on which I wrote my first (incomplete, shelved) fantasy novel.
(All 960 pages of it.)
Who (or what) who helped make you into a writer? If you don’t write, who helped you become the artist that you are? Let me know in the comments.