Several years ago I visited the Salt Lake Comic Con. In one panel, I was asked, “Who inspired you to become a writer.” I’ve been asked that question many times before, so I knew the answer, but before I could speak up, I had a realization: More than anyone else, I inspired myself.
Let me explain. Certainly there were a number of authors that I revered as a teen. Tolkien was foremost, but I’m not sure that his work played much of a role in my formation as a writer. He never once called me and asked, “How is that manuscript coming, Dave?”
In fact, I suspect that if I’d never read Tolkien, I’d still have found some other writer who inspired me just as well. Perhaps it would have been Richard Bach, or Frank Herbert, or any of a dozen other popular authors. In retrospect, I realize that it was an innate tendency.
As a child of about 8, I once spent a month drawing a picture that covered some 40 sheets of paper. It showed thousands of knights on horses in battle, in a bloody war. My mother was quite upset by my obsession with it, and went so far as to call in a psychologist to watch me. He was a soft-spoken man who gently asked what I was drawing. I explained that the sides were evenly matched, but if you looked into the center of the picture, you could see where the balance was shifting to the “good guys.” I asked him which knight was his favorite, and he picked one of my own favorites, so I thought that he was a great guy.
After the doctor went into the adjoining room, my mother asked the doctor, “Is he crazy?” The psychologist said kindly, “No, he’s not crazy at all. Congratulations: you have an artist!”
A few years later, I was cleaning a fish tank when I noticed that the colored gravel in the bottom could be used to create a picture. So I cleared off the table and began making mosaics with colored bits of gravel, then I glued them onto boards. I did this off and on for a year, at least, with something of a crazed enthusiasm.
At the age of 16, I turned to sculpting with just as much gusto.
At about that time, one of my teachers in high school warned me, “You’re a writer. You’re going to have to deal with that.” She was very serious about it, almost sad. I enjoyed writing, but I kept thinking that I would go ahead in pre-med and become a doctor.
Then at the age of 21, I suddenly burst out in poetry and began writing more aggressively. I couldn’t keep it contained.
I suspect that I was born to do art of some kind.
Kevin J. Anderson has said, “My muse isn’t a beautiful spirit who whispers ethereally into my ear—she’s a nagging harpy that grabs me by the throat and screams ‘Do it now’!”
Shakespeare isn’t likely to text you today and ask you to get going. Neither is Yeats or Faulkner or Hemingway.
So tap into your love of creating. Be your own inspiration.
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