How Does One Become a Writer, Anyway?

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

If you’re here because the title of this post made you think that I was going to be telling you how to become a successful writer, or giving general advice about the writing business, I’m sorry to disappoint. Believe me, if I knew that I would tell you. And if I ever figure it out, you’ll be the first to know.

This post is about what made me want to be a writer. It’s about the things in my life, and the things within myself, that turned me into the kind of person who feels the need to communicate, to tell stories, to express myself, through writing. The goal here is not to advise but to relate. I hope you’ll stick it out anyway.

I’ve lived in West Virginia my whole life and, anyone who has ever lived here will tell you, it’s not the most open-minded place (though I will admit, it has pleasantly surprised me on occasion). Knowing the way that the majority of people here look at things, I’ve always felt out-of-place and like I could never truly be myself here. Unfortunately, even though I have tried moving away, I always end up coming back.

I was homeschooled as a young child and, in a lot of ways, that made me the person I am. You see, when you grow up without the influence of social expectations, you learn who you really are. Instead of falling into some pre-determined group, I developed my own interest, and beliefs, and ideas at a very young age.

My family had a small group of other homeschoolers that we interacted with. We were all different, and we were all okay with that. No one tried to make anyone else into anything they weren’t. The problem is, homeschooling keeps you in a safe little bubble. I just assumed that everyone looked at things the way we did. It was only when I went to public school that I realized I was, “weird.”

I did okay; I had a few friends in school, and I learned to get along fairly well with everyone, despite the fact that most of them thought I was strange. But I also learned to keep the largest part of who I was to myself. I never tried to fit in; I dressed the way I wanted, and I never pretended to believe anything I didn’t believe, but I always knew that I couldn’t trust anyone to like me for who I really was.

When I went to college (the first time) I thought things would be different. I thought I would find people like me, people who cared about the things I cared about, people who would understand me. But the need to remain closed off had become so ingrained that I couldn’t let it go. I never got the chance to find anyone like me, because I never truly let anyone know me. I stayed for three semesters, and tried three different majors, but I never could decided what I wanted to do with my life, so I left.

After that I had a series of job, mostly in retail, which only served to reinforce my habit of being polite and friendly, but closed off. Nothing teaches you to just keep your mouth shut and smile like doing customer service. The thing is, most people know how to turn that off when they aren’t at work. I didn’t. I still don’t, not really.

Throughout this time, I was almost always writing in some form or another. I started a couple of different blogs, in which I said things I would never be able to say in real life. I wrote poetry, and even read some of them aloud at a couple of poetry competition, which was a pretty big step for me. I started a YouTube channel so that I could actually talk to people, but in a way that could be scripted, and rehearsed, and prerecorded.

Even when I wasn’t doing any of those things, I wrote stories just for myself, to take me out of my own life and into some other life. This is not something I do on purpose, it just happens. I’ll be folding laundry, or taking a shower, or doing anything throughout my day, and a story starts playing in my head. Sometimes the stories are about me; things that could happen to me, things I wish would happen to me, sometimes things I fear might happen to me. More often than not though, they are about some other person who is not quite me, someone who is familiar enough that I can fit myself into the role, but different enough that I can get outside of myself for a while. At some point it finally occurred to me that maybe I should start writing these stories down.

It turns out that was one of the best decisions I ever made. I love writing. I love taking the little pieces of stories that pop up inside my mind and building worlds around them. I don’t know if I’ll ever actually be able to make a living at it but, by all the gods, I’m going to try. Whoever you are that may be reading this, I hope you find something that makes everything make sense to you, the way writing has for me, and I hope you go after it with everything you have.

Whitney Metz

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