I didn't become a writer until I learned how to write words, at the tender age of five years old, in the Santa Fe Maria Montessori School in Solonas Beach, California, just outside of San Diego. My first "story", if you could call it that, amounted to about two paragraphs. Two paragraphs of half-baked fiction for a five-year-old, let me tell you, is a Herculean effort. I don't remember the premise for the story, but I seem to recall it being inspired by a recent episode of Scooby Doo. Bygones. We all have our inspiration.
I guess that was the point when I realized that I loved telling stories. After that, I did a lot of them, most of which have become victims to the ravages of time, moving from place to place and plain old forgetfulness. As I grew in years my stories grew in length and complexity. All but a literal few of them had never been seen by another person until I was somewhat older, in junior high school. My first publicized story was titled "Death Be Not Kind"- a story about a man who outwits a female incarnation of death and, as a result, wins immortality but it's a pyrrhic victory... he ends up without his soul. A quaint little tale, all of maybe two thousand words in length with a vocabulary that was much more advanced than that of a typical junior high-schooler. It was published in the school newspaper, the best-selling issue of the school year as it turned out. All around the school I became known as The Writer. "Hey, it's Jay, The Writer. Come on over here, Jay, and tell us a story."
I read all kinds of books as a kid, mostly sci-fi and horror (V.C. Andrews, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Jonathan Swift, Madeleine L'Engle and a cornucopia of others). Having done so allowed me to gain a healthy appreciation for all kinds of genres, which in turn allowed me to have literary freedom in my own pursuits. I've written fan-fic, hard SF, spec-fic, horror, psychological thriller-type, erotic, comedy, adventure, fantasy... the full gamut of stuff that I'd read I also wrote, when the mood struck me.
I have a cardboard box that I've hauled around with me ever since I was sixteen years old. It has mostly very old stuff in it that I've written, most of it unfinished ideas, but I periodically browse through it. I do so to remind myself of my love and zeal for the written word, to remind myself that I've grown and advanced as a writer over the years. Some people have photo albums of their past, snap-shots of their youth and life. I have my Box, filled with thousands of words that I've written, and it serves me just as well. In a sense, I think it does an even more precise job of putting my life into a certain sort of context, much better than any photo album ever could. I see, between each of the lines I'd written, ideas and philosophies which have either been nurtured to maturity or cast aside as mental drivel.
All those stories and concepts, all those tales and never-lived adventures, they comfort and surprise me. I guess, in a sense, that I write for the sake of the young man who can be found in those pages. I write in rememberence of that young boy's dream and passion, his logophilia. I write because I like to tell stories and, like a teacher who loves to see a spark of understanding in a student's eye, I simply thrill at seeing a person's gaze turn far-away as they read something I've written. I have not had many adventures in my life, despite the twists and turns it's had, but I've concocted hundreds of them. I've put make-believe fantasies down on paper and, when I shared them with others, was able to live out and share those adventures in some small way.
As well as being a story-teller, I am a make-believer, an embellisher, a liar. I make things up and pray that when others see those made up ideas, they come across as believable and entertaining. There is nothing more enjoyable for me than to actually watch someone suspend their disbelief, even if they aren't reading one of my stories. It's fun, to me, to see a person sort of disappear into a book's pages as the world around them drifts away into nothing and gets replaced by a fictional world contained in black-and-white text. It becomes a sort of reaffirmation of the human animal, a touchstone of faith in humanity, a declaration that we, as a species, are not without imagination after all.
It feels like a personal sense of purpose has been attended to when I write. Like some people were created or wired in such a way that they simply could not avoid doing certain things. It doesn't matter if they become rich and famous doing what they were born to do, as long as they do it, to fulfill that purpose, that need which was bred within them, like an accident of karmic genetics.
Over the years I've come to find that when I share a story I'm working on with a person before it's completed, I never do complete the story. By then, what's the point? I've told the story, taken a person on a make-believe adventure. I have done my duty as a story-teller and told a story. I suppose that if I want to become more prolific and successful as an Author (and there is a difference), then I should not share my stories until they are done and then only do so when the person I'm sharing my story with happens to be a magazine or book editor. But sometimes, man, a story just begs to be told, like, now. And at those times I simply cannot hold back; I open my mouth and words come out, words which form sentences and tell of a world and people which do not exist.
Anyway. That's why I became a writer: I was a writer before I ever knew there was a word for it.