Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Step by Step

Many writers get asked, “When did you know you were a writer?” Or, “How did you know you were a writer?” Or, “When did you start writing? Were you good in English as a kid? (I just got that one the other day). Some writers have an answer for some or all, and some don’t have an answer for any.

But I have yet to hear the question, “Where did you become a writer? Where did it all start?” Meaning “Where were you when...” Everyone has a poignant place of personal change that will stay with them forever.

The curious might ask the question ‘where did it start,’ as if becoming a writer hits like an epiphany out of thin air, to which the answer could be: “While bathing in the Ganges River (not advisable) a Mahseer fish (a fish found in those parts) bit me and the over-whelming revelation to be a writer coursed through my body.” Nothing wrong with swimming or fish, but if I was in the Ganges River, no matter how holy or bucket-list-completing the event might be, I don’t think I would be thinking about writing right at that moment. Or maybe I would be? Who knows. Mysterious, unexplainable things happen all the time.

Or some might respond to the “where were you when...” question with: “I was in my stained once-pink housecoat in my laundry room surrounded by piles of laundry when I got ‘the call’ from a publisher offering me an eight book deal. That was where and when I knew I was a writer. It was only after the call, despite my excitement, that I noticed the laundry room was in dire need of painting and there was a Cheerio in my hair. Thank God I wasn’t on Skype!”

Or better yet some might, while wearing a tweed jacket coupled with a cravat loosely tied at the neck, point at you with their pipe (a perfect prop) and answer in the most uppity, smooth voice, “Well, my dear, I got my start while studying 18th century German Literature at ‘Hoity-Toity University.’ I wrote my twenty-two theses in the same dorm I occupied for twelve years overlooking the garden commons, all while transcribing Elder Futhark, the ancient Germanic runic alphabet.”

Alrighty then.....

So obviously the question is open to interpretation. But for me, I actually DO know the exact place where my early writerly start began. I can quote the spot, right down to the step: fourth step from the bottom on the back stairs of my childhood home.

The back steps of the house where I grew up was a central, common area to my sisters and I. It was a place to play dollies, chat and gossip, have a good cry, or lace up our roller skates. But mostly, for me, it was a place to sit and read in the sun during the summer months. Over the years I read countless books on the forth step up, and it was there where I not only took-up sketching (epic fail), but where I wrote a ‘thriller’ short story about an acid-spewing spider which attacked me in my sleep. Seriously. (It was also there, in the summer of ’83, where I discovered I had chicken pox).

I still have the sketches but the countless, numerous, infinite number of books I read, along with the story I wrote, are long gone (oh how I wish I still had the books and the story!).

I sat there day after day, reading book after book (in between roller skating, of course), unknowingly fuelling my inner-writer. Adventure books, mysteries, teen romances, and then all too soon, mature romances. And while I was building my writerly muscles that wouldn’t be put to use until later life, I was also building up a good base tan. Sunscreen wasn’t ‘in’ back then.

I had friends, don’t doubt, but I was, and always have been, a bookworm at heart.

It was during a recent down-memory-lane trip with my dad to the old house that I was able to capture on film where it all started; where I became a writer.

The house, now owned by someone else, has been going through some renovations. The open-air, covered patio you see to the left (your left) of the stairs was where I played as a little kid. A few years later that area was transformed, my dad using the space to build an addition to the house. It was perfect as for many years I had a wall to lean against while I read. The new owners have since removed the addition, and the space has been reverted back to the open-air covered patio it once was. Seeing it like that, back to its original state, sent me on a weird time-warp: I hadn’t seen it like that since I was about six or seven years old.

I realize now the whole ‘old house’ visit was a bit of a revelation in itself – and I didn’t need to be bit by a Mahseer fish in the Ganges River to have that revelation, either. Not only was it great to see where it all began, but it reminded me that things change, I’ve changed, and so will my writing, change. No, I’m not currently writing about acid-spewing spiders, but who knows – maybe one day, I will.

Going back to where it all began was an inspiring reminder of how far I had come – one step at a time.

Thanks for reading!



  1. What a great post and one I can totally relate to - even though there was no fourth step in my life, there was so many other parallel things including the diary I began when I was nine. Oh, to have it now. Love the Ganges reference and, what was the name of that fish - still laughing.

    1. Thank you, Ryshia! I always get a kick out of coming up with the obscure - Mahseer fish and Elder Futhark. Not that there is anything wrong with either of those, but wow - I sure know more about both than I did before! Glad I made you laugh. Happy writing!