Select Page

I was at a dinner a year or two ago when the man sitting beside me asked, “What made you a writer?”

Barely pausing to swallow my soup, I began my origin story, the very one I’ve told at many writers festivals or in interviews, over many years. It’s the story in which I was a young actor scratching out scenes and notes late at night until I woke up with the idea for a play and wrote it in a white-hot rush over a couple of weeks, and then after it was produced, the artistic director of the State Theatre company asked me if I’d like to write a play…..

My dining partner put his hand on my arm. “No,” he said. “Not ‘how did you become a writer’. What made you a writer?”

It was, I thought, one of the most profound questions I’d ever been asked at a social function. I took the question home with me, pondering it, turning it over and over like a lovely caramel in my mouth. Did I become a writer, I wondered, when I began my primary-school business of selling rude poems about our teachers to my schoolmates? Or was it before then, when I first fell in love with books and words? I pondered those moments as a child watching, watching, watching. It’s this watching and attending – the need to read the subtext – that made me a writer.

Knowing that, remembering that, keeps me mindful of where to look for my own creative nourishment.

Dani Shapiro in Still Writing talks of her experience as a child in a house of tension, the way she became attuned to nuance. This, she feels, is what made her a writer.

The great Diana Athill wrote about spending her 20s and 30s beset by disappointment after being wounded in romance. And all of a sudden, “in the early 1960s nine stories “happened” to me. I say “happened” because I did not decide to write them, but suddenly felt a peculiar sort of itch, which produced them.” But the itch, although buried, was there all along.

And so I invite you today to consider this same question. What made you a writer?Not how you began writing. Or when you began. Or when you hope to begin.

What made you? What led you here?

Connect with the origins of your creativity. It will remind you of what you value, and become your guide.

 Today’s Prompt:

She could remember everything…