By Martha Reed
I fell in with a very intellectual group of writers the other night and part of the discussion was what initiated them to begin their writing careers. Like most writers, they agreed that they were born that way but this group had pursued it via Academia where most of the working writers I know are like me: we don’t have MFAs, we work jobs and raise families and we carve out a precious portion of our time for the writing but everyone who writes seems to agree that we couldn’t stop writing even if we wanted to.
The point of the discussion, though, made me stop and try to remember what made me start writing and I think the answer goes all the way back to the sixth-grade. We moved that year and my new English teacher could see that I was struggling to fit in with my new life, my new friends, even my new geography – the history I brought with me was from a different cultural perspective – so she suggested that I start keeping a journal. And I remember that I did keep it, faithfully, and she read my entries every Friday and was kind enough to critique them kindly. I thought she was being nice but now I think she was trying to teach me the tool I use to this day: to stop and consider my situation and then think and craft my response to it – which if you take that one step further is Plot.
Which took me to my next step when I started my first novel. I was in a terrible situation – flat broke and stuck in a job I loathed. I had also just completed another move from Texas to Pennsylvania so there was the cultural dislocation to deal with again, too. I was thirty years old and I didn’t know who I was anymore so I fell back into my old pattern of writing stories because writing was the only thing – the only thing – that made me feel better.
Each and every day when I came home after a day of gearing up and getting it done and trying to dig myself out of the hole I could take myself to a world I was creating that made more sense to me and escape the present reality. The gift was that as I began to change my interior world it overlapped into my reality and I started making significant changes there, too. Which brings me to my present place, standing on the threshold of my second novel and looking around at things that are pretty damn good.
I’d like to put these questions out to the world: what triggered your writing? Was it a kind mentor or a difficult situation? Have you noticed that your reality changes with your writing? Inquiring minds want to know.