© 2019 by Patti Callahan Henry

patti@patticallahanhenry.com

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Website Design Development & Management by Judith D Collins 

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How to Make a Writer 

I am often asked a question that—until now—I’ve been unable to answer. That question is, “How do you become to be a writer?” I’ve wanted to give a bullet-list or sure-fire plan, but I only stumbled over a few explanations like “Read more”, “Write more”, “Observe the world through wondering eyes.” And then finally, I realized that I had a step-by-step formula.

So here you go—How to Make a Writer.

First:


Have her born on the first day of spring when day and night are equal lengths and the world is bursting with creativity.

How to Become a Writer
How to Become a Writer

Then:


Place her in a family that believes she is an airhead, mostly a dreamer. Have everyone constantly tell her, “Your head is in the clouds.” “What are you always thinking about?” “Join us here on earth” “You live in another world.”

This makes her a wonderer and as a writer there is nothing better to be than a wonderer.

Next: 


Put that same child in a family that thinks she is a bit “strong willed” (which is just another word for stubborn). She will need this quality to continue to believe in make-believe

How to Become a Writer
How to Become a Writer

Next:


Have her live with a very religious family (say, a family wherein the Dad is a preacher) that tells her all about God and Bible stories full of miracles. You see, miracles will make her believe that the world is malleable and full of possibilities. This is key to making up stories.

I mean, really, who gets to have their Dad baptize them in the River Jordan in Israel.

Next:


When she is twelve years old, make her move from the North to the South and then set her up for complete friendlessness. Make her go to a different school from 6th–10th grade, five years in a row, because she will eventually escape into books.

How to Become a Writer
How to Become a Writer

Then:


Give her a flowered diary with a key. Don’t try and read her diary, because she is just wrapping words around her world, and they don’t always make much sense.  Really she hasn’t quite figured out the difference between lying and fiction.

(This is my real diary without the key—of course I lost the key)

Don’t give her anything to do during her childhood summers except wander forests, lakes


Next: and rivers. Let her only toy be a typewriter and art books. Let her only field trips be to the church or library (both of which harbor books of every kind).

How to Become a Writer
How to Become a Writer

Next: 


Help her staple her “books” made of crooked pages and hand-colored covers.

Next:
Let her hide in Libraries but try really hard not to make fun of her for being a “bookworm,” because eventually, she will own as many books as the library.

How to Become a Writer
How to Become a Writer

Next: 

Make her go to five or six church services a week, because eventually she’ll stop listening and learn to daydream while it looks like she is paying attention.

Daydreaming is a fundamental skill for all writers.

Next:


Let her first love be fictional.

 

For example:
Ned Nickerson.

How to Become a Writer
How to Become a Writer

Next:


Don’t roll your eyes when she joins the Latin Club. There is no better place to fall in love with language than the Latin Club.

 

There is no better place to fall in love with mythology. Stories built on stories. It is a wonder and a joy.

Next: 


Pay for her to go to college in the south where she will meet the most wonderful people, and find a place where stories are more prolific than the truth.

 

It is there that she will find “her people.”

How to Become a Writer
How to Become a Writer

Next:


Encourage her to be a nurse or doctor or almost any medical profession.  She will then be a constant observer of the human condition and empathy will work its way into her words.

Next:


Make her get an advanced degree that requires writing a thesis, and not only a thesis, but one that will be published in the thrilling Neuroscience Nursing Magazine, gaining zero popularity among cool friends who read Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Nothing hones the value of “clarity” better than thesis writing.

How to Become a Writer
How to Become a Writer

Next:


After she is married, have her stay home with three children under five years old and have her read to them all the time. She will memorize Good Night Moon and Pat the Bunny, so when she asks her five-year old daughter what the daughter wants to be when she grows up, her daughter replies “a writer of books” and reminds the woman of her life-long dream to write.

Next:


Watch in slight amusement as she becomes obsessed with the written word and story, taking classes, writing in the wee hours of the morning.

 

Whisper to one another, “What is she doing?” until finally she looks up and announces, “I am a writer.”

How to Become a Write l Coming Up for Air
How to Become a Writer

Now that you’ve made this writer, fashioned her from the clay of loneliness and story-obsession, go to her parties and book signings. But mostly let her be a dreamer who often lives in another world.

 

Love her for just who she is—a strong-willed wonderer.

Oh, and one more thing:


Now that she is an author, allow her to use small pieces of her life inside her fictional stories so that the novels aren’t “true” but hold some “truth.”

How to Become a Writer l Henry Family