The first time I ever thought of becoming a writer was when I was seven years old. I was in second grade, living in Wichita, Kansas.
My form teacher Mr. Niessen had asked each one of us what we wanted to be when we grew up. A firefighter! The president! Red Power Ranger! A princess! Hamburger! Laughter, lightness, the excited babbling of children.
When it was my turn to speak, I remember saying the word slowly and shyly.
I’d never said it aloud before–in fact, I’d never even thought about it before. But that’s what I wanted to be, to write a fantastic story, to have my name printed in a book, to have other people like me picking it up and reading it and falling in love with it, in love with my words.
Mr. Niessen smiled and said how awesome and cool it was that I wanted to write. I think he might’ve continued bantering with me in kind, quintessential Americanism, but all that’s forgotten now.
What I do remember is feeling surprised that he took it so well. Even as a child I knew that becoming a writer had some degree of shame entailing it; it wouldn’t have been the same if I’d said I wanted to be a doctor or lawyer. Writing was for the lost souls and the insensible idealists; it was for those who tried too hard, who failed and tried again–for those who were to be pitied. Not me.
Yet… that’s what I wanted to be. A writer. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be.
My closeted dreams of writing only surfaced 10 years later, when I studied creative writing for television and new media. It was writing, but somehow it felt like pseudo-writing, too–I wasn’t writing what I wanted to write about; it wasn’t writing for my soul. It was writing for essays and scripts and exams, for marks and grades and a perfect score. It was writing within an delineated limit within my imagination, for a local niche with local tastes, for the eyes of my lecturers. It was writing constrained, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would’ve liked.
On the bright side, I did enjoy news writing and journalism, and for the next few years I contented myself with the fact that I could technically call myself a writer, whilst writing of typhoons in Hong Kong and elections in Afghanistan, as I interned for the local news channel.
But it still wasn’t the kind of writing I wanted to do, the kind of writer I wanted to be.
The writing I wanted to do takes time and effort and discipline, all of which I’ve lacked. Yet I know that if I don’t start now, if I don’t start writing, I’ll never be able to call myself a writer in every sense of the word; I’ll never be able to say it with conviction and meaning and hope.
So this is the beginning: