Have you ever asked yourself this question? Have you ever had a look at your own beginning as a writer?
For some strange reason I have been thinking a lot about my identity as a writer lately and I think to answer those questions give you a good idea of what writing really means to you.
So where do I come from as a writer?
Well, if I consider writing as “holding a pen in my hand and write something on a piece of paper” my beginnings would be in journaling. I started school at the age of 7 and by the age of 9 I had my first journal. I did not write daily and I did not write literary worth pieces but it was my start. I jotted down what happened in my life and how I felt.
But I think writing as in story telling has started a lot earlier. There goes the story that we visited family in the East of Germany the then communist GDR and I loved to bring my grandparents, my great-uncle and his wife, their children and my parents together in a play I invented. My great-uncle was called “Arthur the Angel” and everybody was having fun. It is still something everybody talks about even though no one can remember how the story itself went.
I have been told fairy tales, poetry and other children’s stories from an early age on and as soon as I could read I was given books and later on was a regular visitor in the local library. This is where story telling starts I think. All the stories we’ve been told and we read from an early age on give us an idea of how a story works subconsciously.
Writing wise my next step was letter writing. I started with a friend I have met in Switzerland where one of my uncles lived and then went on to a girl in India and Jamaica when I started to learn English. I had many more but those are the ones that stayed in my mind. My parents had a book of poetry of Erich Kaestner the author of “Lisa and Lottie” and I read it at the age of 13 or 14. I have no idea why I did it I just loved it even though I hardly understood any of the topics. There was no adult who asked me to read it. We had a huge bookshelf full of books and I just looked through it and read what I could. Just after that at the age of 16 I wrote my first poem. Again out of nowhere. I have no idea what made me ~ it just felt like I had to do it.
Meanwhile I was reading books to my younger brother and was reading ferociously for myself. I read the Luther version of the bible even though no one asked me to as well as “Das Niebelungenlied” as a whole. We had to read parts of it at school but I wanted to know the whole lot.
I was allowed to go to holiday camps in summer and at the end we usually created a little play where we put in things that had happened in the camp. One I wrote mainly and it was quite successful.
At school we once had to write a description of a landscape and I got the best mark for it. It think that was when I started thinking that maybe writing could be something I could do. But my life was difficult and of course no-one thinks that being an artist or writer could be a “good” profession. So instead of studying German and English which I wanted to do originally I went for social work. Mind you it is not a bad thing for a writer as you learn a lot about psychology, sociology and you meet an awful lot of characters :-).
I did not pull it off though. Yes I have been working as a social worker but not very successful. In my spare time I wrote and wrote and read up on writing and wrote for a union I was member of as well as for a church magazine later on.
And then there was the internet. That was the best thing that could have happened to me. Well, I despised it at first. Really! Can you believe that?
But once I got over that initial block I just loved it. A homepage lead to a blog and then more and more.
I am not quite sure why I started reading or writing. It seems to me more and more that I had to do it. It was what interested me and as my family was so occupied with “adult” issues I was left alone in my search for new reading material as well as in my writing. Well not alone in finding reading material as I was always given loads of books for Christmas, Birthdays ect. But I did not tell anyone about the writing bit or let anyone read it until I was well in my twenties. But I think this is the best thing one can do:
Just start and do it! Let no one interfere and when you get more interested in learning more than you are ready to show what you have been doing so far and then learn more.
I have never done a formal education in writing. I have paid for some courses but never really finished them. They did not seem to give me what I needed. But I have always searched for books and later on material on the internet that gave me ideas on what to work on. Which would make me an autodidact ~ oh how I love this word :-).
I never realised how much I was writing and reading. The reading bit yes but not the writing bit. The longer I read up on how to become a writer the more it dawns on me that not the “master piece” makes you a writer but the daily exercise of writing ~ be it journaling, letters, poetry ect.
And where do I want to go to? I do not know exactly. I have some projects for this year and then I’ll see where it leads me. That is how my writing life has always been and it was and is a good way of doing it.