Sometimes i am asked when I knew I wanted to be a writer. There are probably several instances, but here is one that I remember quite vividly.
I was writing a short story in my Grade Twelve English class about a man who lost everything in the 1929 economic crash known as ‘Black Monday’. I have no clue what inspired me to write that story – perhaps we were learning about it in Social Studies, but I do recall how frustrated I felt during the writing process.
I recognized the need for more research but didn’t have the time (or the inclination…) to dig into the history beyond what I already knew. I was also frustrated with the chore of editing and moving various parts around to better say what I wanted to say. In those days there were no computers, so it was a matter of scratching and scribbling with pen until the pages were riddled with arrows and big bold instructions to INSERT HERE. Typing the final draft wasn’t much better, since whiteout could only go so far before one was forced to start over.
The story was good, but the real version in my mind was so much better. Despite my lack of personal satisfaction, my teacher, Mr. Meginbir, praised the story and asked my permission to read it aloud. I grudgingly agreed, feeling embarrassed to have my thoughts on display. Later that year he gave me a brochure for a writing camp. He thought my writing had potential and suggested I check it out. I remember looking at that brochure and wishing…
I did not go, but the pull was strong. The voice inside my head that said, “You’re not good enough,” was probably the thing that kept me home.
However, I think Mr. Meginbir’s encouragement was the first inkling that writing was actually a possibility for me. I went on to university that next fall and majored in visual arts, which remained my primary creative outlet for several years. Still, the writing seed had been planted. When I finally gave in and started clacking away, the soil was already ready. It was many more years before I felt brave enough to share my writing with anyone and even more before I saw my words in print. But I see that time in Grade Twelve English as a turning point in how I viewed myself.