…the experience that counts when you want to write?» – Sethulakshmi
Oh, dear Sethulakshmi! I feel like I am answering every single question with «both». But it’s true, it’s both. But even «both» is not enough. The most important thing is wanting to write. As simple as it sounds. «Talent» is very hard to define, but this deep rooted sense of wanting, needing to write is undeniable. You might try to ignore it, but it never really goes away.
I often talk to aspiring writers who struggle to explain themselves in a conversation and end up saying «let me write it down for you.» Or: «It’s easier if I write it.» If your natural, most comfortable expression is writing, you’re a writer. If things only start to make sense once you write them down, you’re a writer. If you feel more at home in a story than in real life, chances are, you are a writer.
Also, if your favorite thing is to lose yourself between the pages of a book. Reading and writing are inextricably related, they are twins. Do you remember when you first learned to read? That giddiness when you realized that you don’t have to beg a grown-up to read to you anymore, that you can read as much as you want, whenever you want? That is the exact same feeling you get when you write your own stories. At least for me, that’s how it started. I ran out of books so I wrote my own.
Well, kind of. I was in the hospital with a broken skull and not allowed to read. I saw the volunteer drag the library cart from bed to bed, I saw the other kids choosing the books I wanted to read. Reading was my escape and my safe place, all in one. Opening the pages of a book was opening a secret door into another world, another reality. Another family, another childhood, another life. Lost in a story, I was most fully myself. So, not being allowed to read felt like a brutal punishmend. But then, while I was staring at the ceiling, I thought of the last book I read, something about a group of kids solving a mystery in a medieval castle. I knew there were more books to the series, and I wondered what the next one would be about. Would they find another treasure, would the lazy policeman believe them this time? Would the annoying girl be nicer, would the skinny guy with the glasses get an opportunity to speak up? Before I knew it, I was back in the story.
I never forget that wave of absolute power that engulfed me when I realized: I don’t have to wait for someone to tell me a story. I can make up my own.
So my first «books» were sequels and sometimes re-writes of my favorite childrens books. They were born of my experience and my imagination. So, to circle back to your question, Sethulakshmi: both, and something more.
I still feel I am most fully and truly myself when I am lost in a story. That is what makes me a writer. Everything else is secondary.