Sure you like to read books–in fact at times you enjoy reading them more than living in the real world–but liking a good story, craving a world written of imagination is different from actually creating one, right? Surely a writer is born, calluses on fore and third fingers, and not made? Not necessarily. American master bard Walt Whitman didn’t produce his masterpiece Leaves of Grass until age 35–and nobody has yet figured where his genius came from, near ready-made. Here are seven signs you might be harbouring a fugitive author inside, a writer hidden and desperate for escapism.
1. You really like books. I mean really. You read under the covers as a child, not to mention in the car, on the bus, even heaven forbid at lunch while others played. More than just a borderline literary obsession, yours was the sad ennui that life in the real world could never reach the same heights as on the page. Maybe your true direction in life is to be found in perfectly kerned type. Maybe there you will reach your true heights.
2. As an adult you often avoid reading. Not because you’ve grown out of it, but because your standards in reading continue to grow, and frankly, you’ve been let down one time too many by a poorly written book; you’re just too good a reader for writing that is below you. A writer stuck in the closet is guaranteed to have higher standards than most; perhaps it is time for you to wear the shirt that fits.
3. It’s a cliché–but fiction is the home of clichés so read on–you can name the books that changed your life, whose well-crafted, compelling truths and hidden insights helped you to see the world in different ways, yourself as well. Maybe you have a written truth to offer the world of your own.
4. You often tell others of the faults in what you are reading, how you think a novel could be written better. You intuitively know what makes good writing, know whether an author has something to say before you’ve half-travailed the page. You would write books reviews if only you were a writer you sadly exclaim. Well maybe you should–pick up a pen and you are.
5. When you read words you hear the voice of the author inside you–in fact yours is the long held belief that somehow you know the authors whose work you have read, although you have never met. Maybe you actually do. Writing, like other forms of art, is a bridge between the author and reader, and poet, artist, and meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy writes that if we are aware of this bridge, we can not only enter into the work of a writer, but also acquire their capacity:
“When you want to create something, you want to invoke beauty to inspire you. So at that time, you have to identify yourself with someone who is creating. You want to do something unique, but the type of thing that you want to do somebody has already done or is doing. Only you want to surpass him. So try to identify yourself with the consciousness of the person who has already done the thing or with the person himself, and try to get inspiration, aspiration and capacity from him. If you want to write something spiritual, read my writings and identify with them. If you want to draw something, take your ideal artist and identify with his creation.”
6. You long to discover the hidden meaning of things, the hidden motivations and depths in the hearts of others, the mystery of the world around you, also inside you. Most good writers do–it is why they write–their fascination for life equal if not greater than for writing itself. Follow the path of such writers to self knowledge; pen in hand, start yourself to write.
7. You have always been a storehouse of facts, a walking library of information. You can remember everything that happens to you, often astound friends with precise recall of events and their sequence, without quite understanding why. Your mind itself is a narrator: reporting, observing and describing the events of your day, albeit unbidden usually–a tape recording whose reels are without end. Song-writer Kristin Hersh began writing songs because “If I don’t turn ideas into songs they can get stuck in me and make me sick.” Even if not to this extreme, if your mind is bursting its bounds, put it’s excess creativity and energy to good use; start writing it all down. You might also want to try meditation, and acquire a much needed on and off switch.
According to Hersh, “songwriting is about shutting up instead of talking.” Whether of songs or entire books, if you want to be a writer, now is the time to bite the apple rather than talk about it.
1. p.42, A Galaxy Of Beauty’s Stars, Sri Chinmoy, 1974
2. Kristin Hersh, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristin_Hersh