Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Straw Men, Foxes and Monsters

We often wonder when an author knew they wanted to write. So many times I’ve heard writers answer that question with similar responses: “I always wanted to be a writer”, “As soon as I learned to read, I knew I wanted to write”, “Before I could write I would tell stories”, or they would know a specific age at which they realized they wanted to try their hand at writing. There are those few who didn’t begin writing until they were older, but I’ve only met a few of them. It would be interesting to research what it was that influenced that small group to become writers.

I believe there is some type of DNA, some kind of brain chemistry that wired up certain individuals to write. Have you ever heard a writer say something like, “I can’t NOT write.” Or, “If I didn’t write I’d go crazy.”? The writers I know love to write and it doesn’t seem to matter to them if they make money at it or not; they just write because they have to and they want to.

I think the traits of a born writer come out early in life when we’re children. I remember as a child being terrified of foxes. I dreamed about those gigantic monsters coming after me determined to devour me until my parents took me to a zoo and showed me a real live fox that was no bigger than a house cat. Monsters lurked behind every tree and animals could talk to me in my imagination. When I was four years old I recall telling my maternal grandfather a story about rabbits coming down from Heaven. Where did that come from? 

Pop once told me I built “straw men” and then got scared of them. Neither he nor I thought that imaginative monster building might be the first signs of a potential writer-in-waiting. 
Writers are often avid readers. The love of words runs deep in a writer’s soul.

When did you first get the urge to write? Were you a child with a big imagination? How old were you when you decided to write (fiction or nonfiction)? Did you have a parent who noticed your potential as a writer? Did that parent encourage you along the way to develop your talent?

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. You bring up some interesting questions. I know I always told stories, but most of that creative energy went to building worlds in plays and my imagination. But when I look back, I've always either had stories and poems read to me, or read them myself. Now I think I will delve further into your questions. Thanks for the nudge. Doris

    1. My parents read to us from as far back as I can remember. It was comforting and peaceful to listen to one of my parents read fairy tales to us or an episode from "Finn MacCole And His Warrior Band". One of the things I loved about growing up with my somewhat eccentric parents was that our house was full of books and they did not censor what we read--except for the time I read my Mother's "True Detective" magazine which was a little too graphic in it descriptions of murder scenes. After a couple nightmares on my part, those magazines vanished, but that was the only exception to the no censorship on reading material.
      Anyway, I thoroughly get how having parents read to you could have set you on the path to becoming a writer.
      I would be very interested in your thoughts on the other questions. Do you think you have "writer's chemistry"? Something I didn't ask was whether or not anyone else in the family past or present was a writer. I am the only person in my family who took an interest in writing, so I wonder where the writer gene came from. What about you? Any other writers in your family?
      It's always good to have your input, Doris. Thank you so much for commenting.

  2. Sarah, I agree with you 100%! I remember getting into trouble for trying to "add to" the stories in my Little Golden Books. Mom said, "We don't WRITE in books. The only thing we can do is put our name in the front of the book." I was really little, because I remember making my "M" upside down and writing Cheryl Woss instead of Cheryl Moss. LOL

    In elementary school, I knew something was "wrong" with me. I actually looked forward to English class. And when the teacher asked us to write "ONE" paragraph about something--I wrote 2 or 3 pages. I really did love it, even then.

    My parents always instilled a love of reading in us, and encouraged writing, too--except when it came to actually doing it for a living. LOL

    Great post!

  3. Ohmagosh Cheryl, that's funny that you added to your story books as a child. I wonder why you wrote your M's upside down. Weird. My sister used to write her name backwards like a mirror image. I remember how everyone in English class used to groan when we were supposed to write compositions--and I loved them, I couldn't wait to start writing them. Writing was our happy place.
    Thank you so very much for coming and sharing your experiences and thoughts. I know how busy you are these days so I really appreciate it all the more.

  4. Sarah,

    I've been a writer since early elementary school. Mathematics was so hard for me, that I found positive feedback with words. Reading and writing were the only reasons to even go to school (well, in my perspective at the time.) lol By high school, I was entering writing contests and doing well with them. I had supportive English and creative writing teachers. My parents were supportive, too, and they instilled a love of reading in me. My maternal grandpa read to me a lot, and my paternal grandmother was a second grade teacher, so there was no option, but to read, in her perspective. lol

    I'm with you in that writing is my happy place. I've recently had a bit of a writing crisis, though, and I had to get back to my real writing happy place which is writing for ME and not with the ultimate goal of publishing what I write. (hope that made sense)

    1. Kaye, funny isn't it, how we just kinda know what we are intended to become. Were you relentless about your pursuit of writing? Persistence is another trait I've noticed about myself and other writers. If we weren't persistent I wonder where any of us would be.
      I agree with you about the importance of teacher and family support. When you are told you have the potential to become a published writer by someone you respect, well, it's a thrill ya never forget.
      I hope your writing crisis has passed. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed or fearful of not being good enough and those feelings throw me into writer's block. I took a special class on how to deal with writer's block while I was a member of RWA. That class has helped me work through it several times now. I still hate when it happens though. So, whatever your writing crisis is, I empathize with you.
      Thank you so much for commenting, Kaye, and for sharing your thoughts.

  5. I began writing in my 60's. True. I never thought about it before..I began because I was bored. And that's probably the key. I did everything late..that is, everything I wanted to. Before that, all during high school, my mother directed my "future." She said many times, "Learn typing, shorthand, bookkeeping, and then find a "good job." Her idea about success--"to have a good job."
    I tried this until I was almost 30--but it became boring. So, I tried something new. College at a late age. Teaching...began older than most teachers. Golf--age 40. Bridge: Age 55. Everything later than normal.
    So, writing only became "the next best fun thing to learn." And I set out to "learn" how to write a novel, and "learn" how to get one published. That was my goal.
    Little did I know writing would become my one and only passion in my later years.
    Now, I'm in that category of "I can't NOT write," whether something is published or not--I will write.
    I always enjoy your posts, your questions, your insight.
    Very well done..Celia

    1. Celia, I remember you mentioning how you decided to go to college, teach, and then write after you were older. I think you were mighty brave to do all that.
      My parents were like yours except they wanted me to go into medicine of some kind because they believed medical jobs were the most secure jobs on the planet.
      I didn't want to be a nurse, but in the end, I did like coronary care and I never had a problem getting a job, so I guess they were right about that. All the while though I kept at writing. I took all the classes I could on my own. Progress was slow and it hasn't been easy, but like you, here I am doing what I always wanted to do.
      I'm so glad writing became your passion because I love your stories. I don't want you to have crazy withdrawal from writing so I hope you're writing on something new right now.
      Thank you for coming to visit my blog and for all the kind things you had to say. I always enjoy what you have to say. Thank you!