Monday, December 6, 2010

The Pathway to Writerhood

First of all: Giveaway! I'd originally put the cut-off as "Wednesday" which is not only vague and therefore cruel, but is also the day I'm going to be posting the results. I've now put the cut-off as "Tuesday the 7th, 11:59 pm PST" which should still, theoretically, give y'all plenty of time to enter. There are now six contestants. Go forth!

Second: I realized about half an hour ago that if fairies are repelled and/or damaged permanently by iron, then they can't have iron in their blood. If they don't have iron in their blood, their blood cannot be red. The way my mind works, the logical conclusion is that Spock is not Vulcan, he's fae. He's even got the pointed ears to prove it.

Third: My actual topic. If this feels rushed, that's because it is. I have to leave for work in half an hour.

As long-time readers may have figured out, my dad's a writer. I grew up in a house full of books, multiple drafts scribbled on in blue ink and left on flat surfaces, long phone calls with editors, and a parent who might be in the height of inspiration as easily as he might be in the depths of depression. Sometimes in the course of a week. But I never considered following in his footsteps, even though I was (apparently) really good at writing, even in elementary school. I was going to be anything but a writer, though that makes it sound like I made a conscious decision not to be like him, and I didn't.

Skip forward until just after Grade 10. I'm at jazz band camp for the second time, and hating every minute of it. I'm a small town girl in the big city with kids who've been studying with pro musicians for 10 years. I'm out of my league. It's all I can do to keep my head above the water. Also there are people who want to talk to me and I can't really cope with that, and then we're all forced to attend a dance because what teen doesn't like dancing? Fortunately, I brought a Penguin translation of The Canterbury Tales to camp (and the dance). I fell in love with the language, the cadences, the old words, the raunchy stories—and this coming from a girl who'd been reading Shakespeare for fun for three years.* The camp was a turning point. I had wanted to be a jazz musician. Now I wanted to study English. Words were awesome!

But when it came time for me to choose a university and start thinking about what programs I might like to be in, I realized that English was, in fact, boring. I'd spent years becoming less and less happy with English classes in school, because of the dry books and the prescription and the Only One Right Interpretation attitude, and as far as I could tell, university English classes were exactly the same as what I'd been doing. No way was I subjecting myself to another four years of that, especially not when nobody seemed to teach fantasy or science fiction. Victorian novels? Ergh.**

But then I found the perfect school. Not only could you major in English Language instead of Lit, but you could also study linguistics, which sounded cool and played into my sciency, analytical half. And, and, and! there was this first-year program that wasn't like those boring English classes but still gave you credit for English. I applied. I got in. I loved it, more or less. The first couple essays I got back were devastating, mostly because I'd gotten Bs.***

I majored in linguistics, minored in English Language because it turned out that most of the interesting electives in third and fourth year counted towards the minor. I learned a lot about how we understand language, how language is put together, and how style and rhetoric work. I became a better writer because of it.

Most importantly, though, one of my third-year roommates got me into fanfic. Yes, I know, I know. But I wrote it for a good year or so and got a massive confidence boost from the feedback. I realized I loved to tell stories. I loved to entertain people. And I knew how to put words together to achieve just about any effect I wanted, because I'd spent 3.5 years and counting learning how to do that.

And then came the end of fourth year, the time when all Arts degree holders have to figure out how they're actually going to get a job. I realized that I wasn't half-bad at editing either, so I'd do that, and I'd continue to tell stories (in my own worlds) in my spare time.

The editing thing hasn't really panned out — yet, I still want to someday — but the writing thing has. I'm telling stories in my own worlds, and I'm having fun doing it. I haven't sold a story — yet — but that doesn't matter. I know I will.

What I'm saying with all this, I guess, is that I wasn't one of those kids who knew they were destined to be writers. I wasn't in writing clubs. I didn't write fiction except for assignments. I don't have a lit degree or a BFA. I've come at this my own way, on my own time, and I'm still a writer for all that.

* There is a reason I couldn't cope with people talking to me.
** I've recently read some for the first time. They're not nearly as bad as they were then.
*** This should tell you a lot about me.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

I was sort of the same way! I double-majored in English and math in college: went in as a math major, picked up an English major for fun, ended up doing mostly English. I did study English Literature (and I'm sorry you got hit with the One Right Interpretation problem; I think I mostly missed that) but focused on linguistic/prosodic aspects of poetry. But I didn't write creatively: I only did English analysis. Then, after I graduated and didn't have a job, I started writing, and only then did I really fall in love with it. I loved to read from when I was a little kid, but it was not "My Destiny" to write when I was young. :-)