Somewhere along the way you decided that writing was a good idea. Unlike football, unlike math, unlike basketball, you were good with those word-things. You liked the way they looked on the page. You felt good putting them there. They gave you something the rest of the world lacked. For some writers, it’s a book they read, a teacher that inspired them. Other times it’s a trauma. A death of a close friend, a breakup. There are a thousand ways to make a hero. For writers, it’s isn’t a blast of radiation but it can feel that way. To come to the life of words. To turn the ramble of daily life into tiny magic spells that inspire others to go on living.
For this Sunday’s List, we asked ENTROPY contributors what brought them to that moment. Following is a few of those stories.
My first name was a clue. When I was little I went to a book signing by Ray Bradbury, and he pretty much told me I had to be a writer. It wasn’t a conscious decision; writing stories made me happy because I was (and am) always genuinely surprised by what comes out. It’s free entertainment. Being read by others is secondary.
I planned to be a research scientist then hit a wall with math in high school. Junior year I entered a city wide writing contest as a lark and got second place. Senior year I was lost and sad about science and having to let it go but then won best writer in the school. These were not the turning point though…
As I went to return my cap and gown a figure leapt out of the shadows and bushes. My 17-year-old heart leaped but it was my honors English teacher. She told me something that changed my life . She said, “I have been looking for you all day. I feel that I would regret never telling you this. Keep writing.” Then she hugged me and ran away to her car. It meant so much to know that my scared depressed angsty pimply self inspired such hope and sense of promise in someone and that they reached out. I knew then I was a writer.
I do not remember not being a writer or reader. It’s always there. My oldest friend. Writing asked me to hang out so I said yes and never left.
Sara Finnerty Turgeon
I made books when I was very young–maybe 5 or 6. My masterpiece was about my dog and I sliding down rainbows. I recently found a story I wrote when I was 13 about a lonely boy waiting for the ground to thaw so he could dig a hole and live inside the hole. I also have books I wrote when I was a teenager, all of which started promising and then degenerated into porn. I’ve always written stories, essays, journals, anything, everything. I took high school writing classes at Columbia and had a teacher that made me believe in myself. I wrote in college, and then got an MFA, and now writing is all tethered up to publishing, and that changes everything. Sometimes I wish I was still a little girl, writing in my room, just because it’s what I loved to do.
I fell in love with books after reading Fahrenheit 451. That book showed me the importance of books in society. It make books—the most un-cool of things–cool. I couldn’t join Montag and his crew, so I did the next best thing, I read everything I could get my hands on, building my own subversive little library, my piles of books an imaginary fortress built against the world.
I am only a kid from the Bronx. I didn’t grow up around people who cared about books. The buying and reading of books could get you beat up. It wasn’t something you told anyone about, unless they were a real friend.
Like other people who’ve shared their stories, I have to thank my sophomore English teacher for asking us to write a poem for homework. The result, which I still remember, is not something I’m brave enough to share here. But what I will say is that it was the first time I had ever written something creative. I liked it. I wasn’t bad at it. It was like discovering that I had a knack for a hook-shot or I could throw a good curveball after a few tries. That’s what it was like for me then. That’s what it’s still like now. One word, then another and another. I love it. It’s how I pray. I never stop feeling that joy and that thrill.