I've written before about one of the books that made me a writer: L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon, published in 1923 (after Montgomery's better known Anne of Green Gables), which I first read in the early 1950s at the age of 7 or 8. I just finished rereading it (for the umpteenth time, but the first in several decades), crying over the moving parts just the way I always did. (Yes, I cried when Beth died in Little Women too--was someone saying the other day that gender differences are overstated?)

The thing about Emily is that she writes--first poetry, then stories, and without even thinking about it, unsparing and wickedly accurate character sketches of everyone in the neighborhood. In my formative years, I was reading passages like this:

"But there is a destiny which shapes the ends of young misses who are born with the itch for writing tingling in their baby fingertips, and in the fulness of time this destiny gave to Emily the desire of her heart...."

When her severe Aunt Elizabeth forbids her to write, Emily stands up to her.

"'Don't you know that it is wicked to write novels?' demanded Aunt Elizabeth.
'Oh, I'm not writing novels--yet,' said Emily. 'I can't get enough paper. These are just short stories."....'Oh, I must write, Aunt Elizabeth,' said Emily....'You see, it's this way. It is in me. I can't help it.'"

Later, a respected teacher tells her:

'...you're only thirteen. But you don't know what's ahead of you--the stony hills--the steep ascents--the buffets--the discouragements. Stay in the valley if you're wise. Emily, why do you want to write? Give me your reason.'

'I want to be famous and rich,' said Emily coolly.
'Everybody does. Is that all?'
"No. I just love to write.'
'A better reason--but not enough--not enough. Tell me this--if you knew you would be as poor as a church mouse all your life--if you knew you'd never have a line published--would you still go on writing--would you?'
'Of course I would,' said Emily disdainfully. 'Why, I have to write--I can't help it by times--I've just got to.'
'Oh--then I'd waste my breath giving advice at all. If it's in you to climb you must--there are those who...can't breath properly in the valleys. God help them'...."

I've spent the past 55 years trying to decide if this is true for me. I'm still not sure if I'd feel authentic saying it is. Yet I've been writing all that time with as many rejections, if not more, as anyone I know, as many manuscripts in the drawer. First poem published at age 37. First novel, Death Will Get You Sober (which I sure couldn't have written at 25, 35, or even 45) coming out this April. If I had an itch, it's not genetic: both parents were lawyers. Yet something must have been going on.

So how about you?

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Yeah. That's why I'm insane enough to keep my business going while I'm trying to raise these two little creatures (4 and 1-who-thinks-he's-4). I'm not happy being just a mom, but heaven help me because sometimes I'd rather write! I keep telling myself there must be a balance somewhere, but I haven't found it yet.
I believe people are born with their talents. Some of us write. Some of us paint. Some people realize early on what their talent is, some don’t (if ever). Some of us have to work really hard to hone our skills, to others it comes easy.

We’re probably all asked at some point why we write. I like Tennessee Williams’ answer: “I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t write. I’d probably go mad.”

I cannot not write. It’s who I am.

By the way, I’m always a bit envious when writers have books they credit with their initial interest. I don’t think I have one. I distinctly remember it was a lack of reading material that got me started. I couldn’t find what I wanted to read in the library, so I sat down and wrote it myself. (That still works for me today.)

Nadja
“unbalanced” mom of two :-)
I came to it late because of a mistaken conviction that I didn't have the talent to write fiction. Yet all my life I was addicted to reading as well as to thinking up stories, and I should have known better.

These days I write because I like that better than doing anything else -- and I have tried painting, teaching and research, and gardening.
If I didn't write, I'd be too cranky to live with. When I don't write, or when I can't write - because I have to do something else, or because the writing's going badly - I frequently am too cranky to live with. IMO, any spouse or significant other of a writer deserves a medal. :-)
Nadja, my other two key books were Little Women and Anne Frank's diary, which was published in English when I was about 11. What I didn't have was mentors. My role model was my mother (who went to law school in 1921 and got a doctorate when she was almost 70). She could tell me how to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a college professor, but was baffled by my desire to write.

After saying in my original post that I'm still not sure if I'm driven, I realized that when I thought of it as a good topic for CrimeSpace, I was about to climb into bed with my husband and a good book. Guess who stayed at the computer for another half hour? I still don't know if I'd die if I couldn't write novels. In fact, there have been moments when I thought the process of writing them would kill me. But I guess I am driven to write something.
For me, "driven" is too strong a word. I enjoy writing, and I hate to have incomplete projects hanging over me, though that's more of a manifestation of my general OCD than it is a compulsion to write. I do write every day, though, and had to give myself permission to take off one day a week and one week a quarter, as there are other people and things in my iife. My formal education is as a musician. That's something I was driven to do, but I got over it eventually. (Not soon enough, based on the feedback I received at some auditions.)
It's an obsession for me. The writing virus infected me in 1998 and is still cheerfully replicating in my veins. I wrote stories when I was a kid then life got in the way. Then BAM... that was all I wanted to do. I'm still at it ten years later and if all goes well, decades in the future. I would write even if no one ever bought another of my stories. It's my thing.

A friend once asked, "If someone gave you five million dollars to do anything you wanted in the world, what would it be?" I said, "Writing... and I'd do it for free."
For me it's a labor of love. I like to start the day with trying to get about 1,500 words on the page. It helps me to organize my thoughts and get those notions that float around in my head at night on paper. I read 2 to 3 books a week and I'm in constant search for something new to read all the time.

I don't know if I have a desire to get anything 'published' that I have written although many things that I wrote for work end up being desiminated thoughout the professional community.

So, yeah, I need to write, but it is mainly for my pleasure.....
A related question: Do you consider all the writing you do Writing? Blog posts? Emails? Letters? Professional, business, or technical writing for a job? Emily of New Moon starts with letters pouring out her heart to her recently deceased father because she has nobody else to talk to. I love blogging, which certainly feels like writing to me. Producing my weekly 500-800 words for Poe's Deadly Daughters makes me feel like a journalist. Yet some writers condemn blogs as taking them away from writing. For me, there's writing the skill and writing the art. In my other "hat," I'm a therapist who's been "seeing clients" in writing via chat and email for the past eight years. That's more like "writing the skill"--but sometimes a three-paragraph response to an email from a needy client says so precisely what I want it to that I get the same satisfaction as I do when a poem or short story comes out just right. And I find it odd and funny that online colleagues, even some whose job is promoting text-based sites or clinics or who run high-tech businesses in cyberspace, will still say, "Why don't we get on the phone so we can really communicate?" I'm glad that fellow writers assume that we can "really" communicate in written words.
No, for me only fiction counts.
great topic for a thread. yes, writing is in me. i've always had a pen in my hand. when i was young i was always starting (but never finishing) stories, always creating characters. i always have stories whirling around in my head. if i didn't write them down, i'd be driven crazy by the voices. in response to your other question - i'm like I.J. Parker - only the fiction counts.
It's all writing, and it can all help us hone our craft and get better at communicating and expressing. But if our profession is being writers of books, then unless we're writing those books, we're not working on our jobs. IMHO.

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