Today while taking my kids to school my son randomly asked from the back seat, "Dad, why do you want to be a writer?" This sort of stunned me because while I have been writing since before he was born he had never asked me that before. Trying to get them to school in time and not being a morning person I gave him a short answer, "Because I like to tell stories, it makes me happy." We talk a good bit on rides to and from school and I enjoy having conversations with them because they can be quite insightful. Proving this true my son then asked, "But what made you want to be a writer?" I must admit the answer didn't pop right into my head.
I remembered being a teenager and first getting a Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman book. It wasn't one of their dragon lance, but Dragon Wing from their Death Gate Cycle series. This of course led me to the Dragon Lance books which led to me creating my first world and writing my first real story.
Of course I knew that wasn't where it started, if I thought back further I remembered my love of comic books. I remembered spending hours nearly everyday with my two best friends making characters and giving them stories and drawing them. I can still remember at the time wanting nothing more than to walk into a comic shop and see something on the shelf I had written.
Both of these could be great reasons to tell my son as to why I wanted to become a writer. Still as I thought on it I knew it went back even further than that. My mother read to me as a child I know because I own one of the books she used to read me, it was one of the Golden Books: The Saggy Baggy Elephant. Just a little book about an elephant who didn't feel like he fit in. See my father had left before I was born and I grew up with a sister who had a different father than me and though this is not an uncommon story there were times where I did feel like I didn't fit in or have a place.
Another person who was hugely influential in my life was my Godmother. I called her Mamma Donna, I can recall clearly going to stay with her over summer breaks. It was a place of my own where I was special. She used to read Charlotte's Web to me when I went to sleep. She helped run a private school in New Orleans so as I got older I was able to ransack the school's library. I remember devouring books like Treasure Island and White Fang. Then I found C.S. Lewis, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. In those books I found friends and learned lessons. I got to escape and feel all ranges of emotion. My imagination was opened wide.
The ride from my home to my kid's school isn't a particularly long one so all of this remembrance happened in just a few moments and not wanting to leave my son's question unanswered I tried to cram it all into a few poignant sentences. As we came to a stop I saw him nod his head at my story and he opened the car to go into the school building. I watched as he and his sister left the car. I told them I loved them and as I usually do in the mornings when I take them asked ever so cleverly for them to learn something. It was a small thing his question. Simply a brief moment of, at most, an interest in his father or at least a mild curiosity as to why I did what I do with my time. For me though it was something truly special.
It let me go back to those moments in my life. Like when my mother used all of her energy to fill the role of two parents and still took the time to read to me. Of the last time I saw my Godmother at my sister's wedding. She spent her time watching a few children, some of which were her grand kids. I got too see new people benefiting from having a Mamma Donna. Of my two friends who didn't care if it was silly to run around yelling out hero catchphrases and spend hours and hours off in an imaginary world. To go back to the moments I fell back into a fantasy world and loved it so much I created something for myself that I still work in to this day.
These stories and others like them, of great moments and people in my life showed me something about myself as a writer. They showed me that this isn't something I thought would be cool to do one day. It isn't something I thought I could make some money at or get some attention through. No, what that little question showed me was that as corny or fluffy and maybe even a little cliched as it may sound, writing isn't something I do, it's who I am.
Anyway, what is it that makes you a writer, or a painter or an accountant or whatever it is you truly are? Finding that out may bring a smile to your face when things get hard, as always have fun and keep writing.