BE A WRITER, the magazine ad screamed at me. JOIN THE FAMOUS WRITERS SCHOOL AND LEARN FROM SOME OF TODAYS WELL KNOWN AUTHORS. MAIL THIS POSTAGE PAID CARD FOR A COPY OF OUR FREE APTITUDE TEST. That ad appeared in every issue of my mother’s Look Magazine. After staring at it and re-reading it month after month, I finally screwed up the courage to submit the card.
It was 1967. I was eleven years old.
I was a writer. I wanted to learn from the best, and that certainly wasn’t Mrs. McLean, my high-strung, frizzy haired fifth grade teacher. Why shouldn’t I apply for the famous writers school? Let them teach me what I needed to know so I could become famous too.
The aptitude test came, an 8 1/2" x 11” bound paper booklet in which I was to handwrite the answers. (Luckily, my cursive had improved since my third grade teacher, the equally frizzy haired Mrs. Simons, had given me a C in penmanship.) My favorite question was the last - write a descriptive paragraph that will leave the reader feeling a strong emotion.
I titled my paragraph “The Black Room,” and began it with the parenthetical statement that it was “from one of my works.” In the paragraph, I remember writing about a “narrow room filled with grim shadows” where “only the sensation of evil lurked."
I’m sure you won’t be surprised that I wasn’t accepted into the Famous Writer’s School. However, the Famous Writer who was randomly assigned my aptitude test (and I can’t even recall that Famous Writer’s name) was extremely kind. He/she actually scored my test, and gave me some helpful hints about writing before letting me down very easily.
“Rebecca, you obviously have writing talent,” he scrawled in blue ink, “but unfortunately our students must be at least 18 years of age. Please do try again when you’re older."
I was surprised, but I wasn’t crushed. I would just keep writing, adding to my “works” until I was 18 and then reapply.
I was a writer anyway. And I wasn’t afraid to declare it to those Famous Writers.
It’s 45 years later and although I never was admitted to the Famous Writers School, I’m still a writer.
I tell the world I’m a writer every time I hit publish on a blog post, or mail a submission to a magazine or send in a completed technical report to my office. I tell myself I’m a writer even more often - every time I make notes in my journal, or do research for an essay, or write lists of names for characters.
I declare my writerhood every time I transfer the thoughts from my head into words on a page.
Like I’m doing right now.
I’m a writer. Are you?
DECLARE your writerhood. It’s one of the 15 Habits of Great Writers, and I’m joining Jeff Goins and over 500 other writers in exploring every one over the course of the next 15 days.