Joshua asked: What made you want to be a writer? Was there a specific event? A specific person?
For the most part I've kind of slid into the mindset. I had fun writing stories in 5th and 6th grade, but I didn't pursue it that much. I don't really know why. It would have helped me work stuff out, and I was already a heavy reader. I only wrote stories for school even through high school. Then my first few years of college, I wrote nothing creative at all.
But then my roommate my 4th year of college got me playing D&D and NERO, a live-action roleplaying game. NERO in particular resparked my creative drive. I created a couple characters. To best play someone other than myself, I had to make up backstory and motivations. At some point, I realized that this process was sort of like prewriting for a story. It made me think that maybe I could actually make stuff up and have fun with it.
I started working on a novel with just an idea of the two main characters and what had just happened right before the story opening. Worked on it during the summer. In the fall, I took a creative writing class as an elective. My professor allowed me to keep working on that story for the class even though it was fantasy and intended to be a novel rather than a short story. I learned two major lessons about writing from that class: people way outside the target audience tend to not understand/appreciate genre characteristics and when you change the rules to how the world works, you need to define them somehow.
Well, and some people are simply clueless about clues. (My piece was titled Chapter One: The Rescue, because it was the first chapter and it was about a rescue. One person complained that the story didn't make much sense because it didn't read like a short story and who would name a short story "Chapter One" anyway? *headdesk*) That story has been tabled ever since, but mostly because I hadn't decided where I wanted to take the story from there.
Even though I haven't gone back to that one yet, it got me kicked off. My next bit of writing was a brief bit of backstory about one of my larp characters. I really want to tell her story in greater depth at some point, but I haven't worked out what to make the overall plot. It's sort of rambly right now and the beginning keeps shifting. For now, it's a tabled project.
The story that really pushed me into writing with the goal to share began with a dream. It had been so vivid and the characters so compelling that I wrote down as much of the dialog and setting that I could remember when I woke up. It made me want to know what had led to the confrontation. Even after a few days, I still felt it pulling on me. Thus began a several year long project I have never completely put aside, even though I still have a long way to go to completing a draft.
Currently, I cycle between that story, three other novels, and a couple of short stories. Having multiple stories may seem scattered, but when I get flustered or muddle-headed on one because I've narrowed my focus too tightly for first draft work, I can switch to another project. It's reduced my chance at being hit by Shiny New Idea. That's how a couple of my current projects began. I took too long of a break with no writing, and SNI bit me hard. Considering how my focus has improved and my non-writing intervals have shrunk, I'd say it works for me.
But I wouldn't have gotten past the puttering stage on that dream story or spawned any of the other stories if it hadn't been for Writer's Digest. The forums on the website connected me to other writers, especially ones who appreciated the kind of stories I enjoyed. The class may have been a nice start, but I've learned more about improving my writing skills from my forumites and the bloggers I've stumbled onto because of them. Even this blog exists only from the encouragement they gave me in starting one.
It's been a long slow ride for me to get this far as a writer. I wasn't sure how serious I was about it at first, more like yet another hobby. (I have many.) Some writers describe their drive to write as this powerful urge, their passion, something they've always had. I don't have that. But the longer I continue on this writing adventure, the more I want to keep going and the better I get. And my stories won't leave me alone.