How I fell ass-backward into writing

I’ll always have my backup career as an ice cream taster (aside from the whole lactose intolerance thing). [Photo by Brenda Smith.]

I never wanted to be a writer growing up.

I mean, I was always into reading. Like, really into reading. My parents are both big readers, and they did everything they could to encourage the same in me. There were bedtime stories (Noddy [affiliate link], complete with my dad’s off-key singing of the songs), library books (pretty sure my mom cleared out the then-paltry Young Adult section before starting to bring home adult fiction when I was in around fifth grade), book orders through my school classroom, and monthly visits to my local bookstore for the release of each new title in the Sweet Valley Twins [affiliate link] series. (Team Elizabeth 4 life! Lol.)

…And once I got into adult fantasy, I was unstoppable. Every summer, we would go to the cottage for a week, and I would go through at least one novel a day. I remember walking through the halls of my high school with a 700-page book under my arm and someone asking me what class I was reading it for. I got a blank stare when I explained I was just reading it for fun.

But yeah. I never thought about being a writer. Somehow, it was never on my radar.

I was all about creating though. From a young age, I dreamed of being either an artist or musician (or even both). I took art and design all through high school. I studied piano and music theory with the Royal Conservatory of Music, and played flute and saxophone in concert and stage bands at school. (I also took French and Spanish because I find languages interesting, and they seemed like a decent fall-back, since everyone and their dog will tell you growing up that following a career in the arts isn’t ‘practical’.)

Looking back, it seems incredibly obvious that I would end up writing. I enjoyed creative writing in elementary school. I usually came up with some pretty out-there stuff. And I can remember walking to school by myself in the morning, and deliberately taking a path I knew few people walked down, so I could be alone and imagine I was on some kind of ongoing adventure.

But when I got to high school, the creative writing went away, to be replaced by essays. I was good at these, but when you’ve only been taught one particular technique and you’re given a specific topic to argue, it gets pretty formulaic pretty quickly. And so I forgot all about creative writing in favor of building one hamburger-style essay after another. I still enjoyed English class, because we got to read. And every once in awhile, we might get the odd creative assignment, which I would always go all out for.

And then there was a 12th grade Canadian Literature course.

Now in and of itself, I wasn’t all jazzed about the Canadian Lit part. (No fantasy on the reading list, and most of the narratives were on the bleak/depressing side.)

But the main assignment for the semester was to write a short story.

That was literally the only reason I signed up for the class. I was finally going to get to write something other than an essay–and it would account for the majority of my grade. I started brainstorming on the first day I came home from class. I can remember lying in bed that night, ideas swirling around in my brain.

I wrote a fantasy story (of course). It ended up dominating most of my waking thoughts and probably some of my sleeping ones. I even illustrated the version I handed in, so I could justify spending even more time working on it. I was actually sad when it was done, because it meant I would be back to writing essays again.

My teacher really liked the story (despite its twisted nature). When she handed it back to me, she asked if I could print off another copy, without the illustrations–she wanted to enter it into a local youth writing contest. I did as she asked and gave her the new copy, without thinking too much of it.

I still don’t know to this day if there was an entry fee to that contest, or what. All I know is Ms. Delorme took care of everything for me (Thank you!), and sometime later, I got a letter in the mail from the local writers’ circle saying my story had won third place for my age group.

After that, I started to make time for creative writing–outside of school. The character I had created for my short story assignment had a huge backstory behind her, and I was determined to write it. It was still only a hobby though. I would fill up pages of my notebook here and there, whenever the mood struck me.

…Until I met the man who eventually became my husband.

Mark is also a creative type. He immediately took my writing seriously, which encouraged me to do the same. I worked on typing up all the handwritten pages of my fantasy novel in-progress, and started scheduling regular time in front of the computer for writing. It was rough going at first, and since I had no idea what I was doing, it took awhile, but I eventually finished it–my first novel.

And then I started writing the next one.

And the next one…

And the next one.

The first three were a trilogy (because something like 90% of fantasy seemed to be trilogies back then). The fourth one was a stand-alone.

The fifth one was Soul Seeker.

I was terrified to write Soul Seeker at first. Even with four completed novels under my belt (and a few false starts on other projects), I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off the way I wanted to.

Those first four novels have never seen the light of day. (And probably never will.) I look at them more as an education than anything else. (I actually use the printed version of my first novel to help prop up my computer monitor to the right height, lol.)

Once I got past my fear and finished Soul Seeker, I moved on to Light Chasers. And somewhere around this point, I started to realize I had become a writer. I mean, I had already been writing for several years, but this wasn’t even close to being a hobby anymore. I was getting up at 5am to squeeze in some writing time before I left the apartment for 12 hours to go to work downtown. I wrote The God’s Eye in a notebook on my way to and from work on the train.

I suddenly couldn’t imagine what my life would look like if I actually stopped writing. I still can’t. Creating has always been something like a compulsion for me, and writing had become my preferred outlet.

Do I miss making music and art? Sometimes. But I still get to touch on these things through stuff like cover design, or the odd book trailer. And I’m at a point where if I decided to take up art or music again more seriously, I would actually begrudge the time it would take away from my writing or writing-adjacent activities.

So this is my life now. It’s not at all where I had planned to be, and the journey hasn’t always been a smooth one.

But I really like the path I’m walking.

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Posted by Jacquelyn

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