• The Fiction of Becoming a Writer

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    Aundraya Ruse’s “When Is a Writer a Writer?” inspired me to take a break from the act of writing to meditate on what all this means to me. (“This” refers to writing.) Do you ever stop and wonder why you write?  Sometimes I find myself thinking about writing like it’s a necessary task. I have to do it and keep at it, even when it feels frustrating. If I don’t…well, it’s not like I’ll stop functioning. (Or will I?) But I imagine feeling like something huge was missing from my life.

    That’s when I figure it’s good to remind myself what initially excited me about writing. I suppose all writers have their unique origin stories. I remember as a child feeling about words the way some kids felt about crayons. Words sounded as luxurious as Midnight Blue or as striking as Neon Yellow looked. Before I learned how to write my ABCs, I drew little symbols that meant real words on the pages of my sketchbooks and hoped that someone could read them. I felt that I hadn’t entered into the world of “grown-up” letters yet, but I was determined to get there as fast as I could.

    After I learned how to read and write the “grown-up” letters, I felt compelled to dabble in every literary pursuit I knew existed. My parents didn’t have the money or time to enroll me in extracurricular activities, and we didn’t get cable TV or a computer until I was eleven. That meant writing and reading were two of the few activities available to me. I wrote a family newspaper when I was six that included “breaking news,” the weather, and what was for dinner that night. Back in the second grade, my aunt gave me a spiral-bound notebook that I used exclusively to write poetry. (Many poems were about bunnies, springtime, and feeling lonely and “different” at school. Life, beauty, and existentialism, huh?)

    Well, the child poet grew into a melancholy gothy teen that wrote melancholy gothy poetry. Maybe I should give myself some leeway here. Teen angst is across the board, it just manifests in different ways. Mine came out in the poetry I posted on a website called All Poetry. You could read other members’ poems from across the world, enter contests, and read public domain poetry. In other parts of my life, I was often shy and apathetic, but when it came to writing I felt assertive and confident with a healthy amount of self-depredation mixed in for good measure. When something like a writing habit survives puberty, you know it isn’t just a whim.

    And so, after all this reflection, I feel reassured that I write because I really want to. Not for money or special recognition (although I’m not gonna lie—money and special recognition are fabulous perks). I think it would be hard to write if those were my only reasons for writing. I would do it anyway, because it’s just what I do.


    In addition to writing for WriteByNight’s blog, Jenna Cooper writes for BE Mag and a blog called FemThreads.  Aside from writing, Jenna served as an AmeriCorps Member from 2008-2010 and will start her M.S. in Information Studies in Fall 2012.  She graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in English from the University of Texas.

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    James Wintermote

    I have found that my writing often happens in spurts. Sometimes I want to write a poem…sometimes I have a short story I will start on. Although I don’t write on a consistent basis, I did find myself writing and publishing a book at one point: Failing Mr. Fisher. It happened because of frustration in my teaching job and I had so much to say about the problems I was encountering and I felt no one was listening. So I found my voice through writing about those problems. I NEVER thought I would write a book, but when the fire… Read more »

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