Becoming a Writer

Sadly this content emanates from a series of tweets. Although it has been unrolled, I’m adding a redundant backup here.

Brian Kopelmann on becoming a writer:

1) No teacher ever singled me out and told me I should consider a career as a writer. Come to think of it, no fellow student ever did either.

2) I was also a late reader. I had a big verbal vocabulary. A gift for remembering/using words. But I didn’t really become a reader until the summer after 4th grade. My mom gave me the book Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing. I stayed up all night to read it. Then read all summer.

3) Eventually, I taught myself to read very quickly. I didn’t develop some kind of technique, but I learned a kind of hyper focus–the entire world would disappear when I read which allowed me to read fast and comprehend a great deal.

4) Still, I struggled, badly, in school. If a subject was boring to me, I wouldn’t do the work in the class. Couldn’t, really, so, instead, I would read novels during class, hiding them behind the book I was supposed to be dealing with.

5) I acted in high school plays and assistant directed, but again, not once did a teacher or fellow student suggest I should try and make a career as a performer or writer or creator in the arts.

6) And, although I always felt great kinship with artists, I didn’t think I could be an artist either. I always thought artists were predetermined, special, picked out ahead of time, anointed.

7) Now, I don’t want to lie or be falsely humble: I knew I was a smart person, or smart enough, and I knew I had a way with words–that is, I could write an essay or paragraph and do it in a memorable, easy to read way.

8) But I truly thought that I didn’t have the stuff really creative people had. And I was, secretly, a perfectionist. So if I couldn’t spin gold right away when I tried to write something, I wasn’t able to finish it.

9) This inability to finish work, this giving up, this quitting, felt like suicide to me. Led to self hatred. Even as I found success professionally, in a related field, but not as an artist, I would sometimes try to write, and then quickly give up.

10) And then, months later, would wake up in the middle of the night, try again, delete it, throw it out, wake up hating myself. But somewhere in there, my wife, Amy, told me she knew I was a writer. That I should try it. That I deserved to try it.

11) Soon after that, our first child was born. Looking at him, I knew I didn’t want to be the kind of father who would lie, who would tell him he could be anything he wanted as long as he tried, if I, myself, hadn’t tried to live it, too.

12) And I realized that being blocked led to something dying in me. And that like any other kind of death, this death would be toxic, and the toxicity, the bitterness would leach out of me onto those I loved. I didn’t want that to happen.

13) And so, finally, my best friend @Davidlevien gave me Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, and I found myself in it. I found what to call my fear and inability to work. And I started doing morning pages, each day. These pages unlocked and unblocked me.

14) They gave me a ritual, a beginning of the creative day, a way to get beyond perfectionism. They made me realize that no one can anoint you as an artist. You have to do the work, each day, and then, maybe, you just become one. By doing.

15) Shortly thereafter, I stumbled into a poker club, called Levien, told him there was a movie we should write. And that became Rounders. I tell you this because I see from the questions/ comments you ask that many of you are as scared as I was.

16) And I want you to know that you are smart enough. That the teachers didn’t know. That the echoes of their voices don’t matter. And that if you show up each day to do the work, you won’t need anyone else to tell you anything. You will just be, by virtue of doing, an artist.

17) (I understand the ways in which it was easier for me than for most. I was raised with money. I was a white man at a time when that gave me a huge leg up. I had no college debt. I made money young. But none of that stops you from doing. It just made it easier for me).

Brian Kopelmann, twitter thread.

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