In spending so much time among other writers I have observed many personalities, behaviors, and situations. I came to understand quite a few things from my interactions with them. Looking back now, I consider how very similar a writer’s growth is to that of a human’s --mentally and sometimes, physically. I'm speaking of the growth and not the fact that writers are humans (well, for the most part), if that makes any sense to anyone other than myself.
To become a writer is like being born again (not the religious reference). In the beginning we need special attention and encouragement, as an infant would. Our fragile egos and underdeveloped skills need a loving hand to survive that most difficult time. And yes, beginnings are always the most difficult stage for anyone. Rarely can a writer survive that time alone.
As we grow, many of us will continually test our boundaries, only to be put firmly back in our place because we aren’t yet ready, as a child who wants to play with the older children. Many of us cry, some of us grow more determined, and some of us turn away all together. Sadly, there are writers who become stunted at this stage and never evolve past it. That could be due to a ‘parental’ or teaching’ figure who leads them down the wrong path, or being held back so long they fear going forward, or even being told by an authority figure that they shouldn’t ‘quit their day jobs’. But for the rest of us, we eventually learn our strengths and weaknesses. We start to understand when we are ready. Then we make adjustments or advance accordingly.
In a writer’s teenage years you see the same rebellion as with children. Their book is tied to their volatile emotions and they react to any changes or restraints on their ideas with defiance. They don’t want to believe the system can hold power over them. Sometimes they rebel in small ways, and sometimes they make grand statements. In this stage, many writers fall because they let their emotions overrule their reason. In these years, we eventually learn to temper our reactions, toughen our skin, and generally make improvements upon ourselves so that we are ready to take our work out among the bigger fish in the sea.
As a young adult, there are more lessons to be learned --I suspect we never stop learning. Here is where gaining social skills and an understanding of society, as well as the world around you, is vital to evolution. Though writers are, more often than not, naturally reclusive, they force themselves to socialize. In selling themselves (not their bodies, ugh), they are selling their book(s). That doesn’t mean you have to be Miss America or Brad Pitt –though that can’t hurt your case. What it means is you have to be likable to your readers, respectful to your colleagues (other writers/authors), and conduct yourself in such a way that people (publishers, agents, etc) will want to do business with you. All of those manners you were taught (or read about) as a child come into play here. With any goal there will be discouraging obstacles, but those that learn to overcome them are the ones who move on from this stage.
As a mature author the ins and outs of business will take up a lot of their time. Life can make you weary. Everything you have cultivated will have to be maintained. Along the way many create a family of sorts made up of other authors who they respect and care for, to reflect their personal life and any family they might acquire therein. Their career may rise and fall with the goings on in the world, just like any other career. What makes the greatest of these authors is that they live their careers. Writing becomes so much a part of them that all of their days and nights are touched by it, called by it. A mature author must find the balance in the call and the life outside of that calling.
Since I am not old enough, nor have I spoken to enough elderly writers, I can’t continue on with my comparison. But, as you can see there are numerous similarities thus far. Writing is a rebirth…first of the mind, and at some point, part of the soul. For every true writer draws from their soul, and that is how they come to claim the title.
If you were to ask, many authors couldn’t exactly put words to how they ‘knew’ they were a writer. Some have mentioned being published; others have claimed it was something they always wanted to do. And yet, I think the truth is in the evolution of the writer, and whether or not their mind and soul become a part of that existence.