Writers spend much of their lives alone at a desk, and some of them take to it more easily than others. I'm a reasonably gregarious soul, but decades of silent, solitary labor have created in me a need for privacy that sits awkwardly alongside the conditions of my everyday life. Not only do I make my home on the Upper West Side of New York, a city known the world over for its ceaseless hum and buzz of cultural possibility, but most nights I can be found in a crowded theater, accompanied by a friend and surrounded by colleagues. Mind you, I wouldn't have it any other way. Rarely does a day go by without my marveling at my good fortune. Still, there are times when it gets to be too much of a muchness--too much art, too many people, too much buzz--and all at once I find myself wishing I was anywhere but here.
I had trouble reading that paragraph on the first try because I was nodding my head so hard. I have often wondered whether introspective, "private" people gravitate toward writing as a career or whether it's more often the career that teaches us to treasure the solitude that nurtures introspection and creativity.
I began writing fiction at the age of 45. Alone in the house on a rainy afternoon, I determined to discover whether I was capable of creating characters and making up a story. In that first hour, I felt something break loose inside of me, as though a shell surrounding my heart had suddenly cracked and fallen away. I was writing, and I loved it.
While I believe that even the weakest writer can learn to write competently, I'm convinced that writers are born, not made. I'm not talking about raw talent, but about the burning desire to communicate ideas via the written word. If that hunger is not already sleeping inside an individual, it can't be aroused. Yes, the twin lures of fortune and fame might tempt someone to begin a novel, but even the most powerful ambition to attain those goals won't provide sufficient fuel for the journey unless the writer also possesses a strong heart for the work.
Here's a question for writers of all stripes: How and when did you discover that the heart beating inside your chest was that of a writer?