Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Who Let Me Become a Writer?

by Julie E. Czerneda
2003, Julie E. Czerneda

was having tea with my spousal unit, Roger, when we heard part of a radio interview with the latest winner of American Idol. He sounded charming, just awkward enough to seem like a real person facing the fulfillment of his dreams and not really sure how it had happened.

I could relate to the feeling. My seventh novel in six years is selling well. In that same time, I've sold over a dozen short stories and edited five anthologies. There's more to come, as long as I like making up stories and readers enjoy the result. This is the fulfillment of a dream I never knew I had. And I'm not really sure how it happened either. Seems a good topic for an article on writing, doesn't it?

So. Who let me out? Because that's how it feels. Being given permission to spend all my time dreaming up ideas and giving them form. It's what I do as inevitably as I breathe.

It wasn't always that way.

The dreaming and writing were always there, the combination something I did for my own amusement. The imagination? Never a problem. I've always had far too much for my own peace of mind. It's better for the world that I have a respectable outlet for it, believe me.

So what happened? Well, like other writers, I'm often asked: "How did you get your start?" It's the polite version of: "How can I get my start?" but the answer isn't the same, folks. Every path to becoming a career author is unique. What happened in my life took place at different times, in different places, to different people. All my story could tell you is how I came to be here. Okay, it might also provide some amusing anecdotes and wise nodding from the crowd, but that's hardly the roadmap the person asking needs.

I don't have a roadmap for anyone else. But as I look back I realize the more useful question might be "Who let me become a writer?"

You see, brand new writers, like people who sing in the shower, seem to think being alone is how to succeed. They tend to cower away, hoarding their precious ideas, locking up their manuscripts, and only reveal their true ambitions after a few too many, or if surrounded by a critical mass of other brand new writers.

If you want to sing to soap, that's fine. If you want to dry off, get dressed, and walk on a stage to belt out your stuff, you'll have to find someone to let you try.

How did I? A classic case of "Don't do what I did." You see, I never thought to tell my dear friend, who became my husband, that I wrote. He must have assumed all that late night typing was on term papers. My mistake. He found out when hunting ribbons for my antique typewriter and the question came up of what paper I was doing so urgently. By the next day, I had a brand new typewriter, a desk, and someone who insisted on minding the baby two hours a night so I could write.

He thought my hobby was important.

I found the concept startling and rather worrisome. Fortunately, the chance to write was more than enough to take my mind off it.

However, the germ of an idea was planted. The idea that telling other people might lead to ... more chances to write. I tried it again, with a friend or two. (Roger was often the instigator.) A year later, one of those friends steered a publisher towards me and I started writing textbooks for a living.

No matter how much I choke before saying the words, I have never since regretted uttering: "I'm a writer." I've made myself tell colleagues, editors, agents, writers, dentists, bus drivers, and total strangers. An amazing number of them have helped me, the way Roger did, by offering encouragement and, in several cases, the chance to step on stage. In the last few years, I've changed my little line to: "I'm a science fiction writer," because that's exactly what I've become. A dream fulfilled.

So, to answer the question: "Who let me become a writer?"

I did.