I never wanted to be a writer. I never even thought about being a writer. Not at primary school, secondary school, college, university. I never even came close to considering it.
Mainly because I didn’t like it. At school we were made to write about our weekend. I didn’t get it. What was the point in that? I played football (soccer) and saw my friends, like I did every weekend. I think I didn’t get it because it seemed like we were only writing for the sake of writing. And that made no sense to me.
At University, writing felt too restrictive. Everything had to be referenced. Which, in my head, meant we could never write anything original. Again, I didn’t get it. If it was already written down then why was I writing it down?
If someone would have told my ten year old self, or my sixteen year old self, or my twenty-one year old self that I was going to be a “writer”, I’d have laughed in their face. A writer? No. No way.
But it’s like Jim from The Office says, when he admits to missing Dwight:
“Congratulations, Universe. You win.”
Because here I am.
Writing. A writer. Well, more human being who writes. But still.
So how did this happen? How did I end up doing something I never thought I’d do? That I never thought I’d even want to do?
It started when I started to read articles online — articles about life lessons, being an entrepreneur, self-improvement, productivity, blah blah blah. I loved them. I’d read ten at a time without noticing. I devoured them like some kind of learning monster.
Until I noticed something. That something being that, at some point, I wasn’t enjoying them. I was just doing it out of habit. Out of procrastination.
I remember the exact thought I had after reading one too many of these articles:
“This isn’t even that good. I think I could do better.”
I suppose I owe the author an awkward thank you. Because ever since that day two years ago I’ve been trying to do better. I felt like I had to try to do better.
I had no dreams of being a writer. I wasn’t passionate about writing. The label of “writer” never resonated with me.
Having something to say — feeling like I had to say what needed to be said — that’s what drove me.
I didn’t start writing for the sake of writing. I wrote because I had things to say. Because I had things I couldn’t not say.
“The problem is identifying as a writer. As though assembling words together is somehow its own activity. It isn’t. It’s a means to an end. And that end is always to say something, to speak some truth or reach someone outside yourself.”
When I told my parents I wanted to write they weren’t as surprised as I thought they’d be.
“Well, you did win a creative writing award when you were eleven, remember?”
I’d honestly forgotten that. Not because I’m so great and I win so many awards — not at all. I’d just forgotten it because it hadn’t been important to me. Even at the time I won it, I was happy and surprised to have won it, but I was secretly a little disappointed not to have won the sports award. I was jealous of my friend who’d won it, and didn’t take any time whatsoever to be proud of what I’d won.
When my parents told me I’d won that award, I started to remember more about it. I remembered that I’d won it for a story I’d written in our final exams. I remembered that my teacher had been concerned about me not doing as well in that exam as my other exams, that I seemed to be almost inexplicably worse in English than I was in Maths and Science.
Of course, that worried me. What if I didn’t do well? What if I couldn’t do well?
“I just never know what to write about”, I complained to my parents.
And then my mum or my dad or probably a combination of the two said something that totally changed my perspective:
“Why don’t you write about football?”
Football. The thing I loved. And more importantly, the thing that mattered to me more than anything else — the thing that mattered to me so much more than writing.
How could I not have thought of that before? Was my mind that closed?
So that’s what I did in that exam. I wrote about football. I can remember it now — I actually enjoyed that exam. I enjoyed writing. I was completely in the moment and I was telling a story that only I could tell and I was writing a story about what mattered to me more than anything else.
I wasn’t writing for the sake of writing. I was writing because I had something to say.
I never wanted to be a writer, and I still don’t.
I also write.
Matt Hearnden is a writer from the UK. He mostly tells stories only he can tell. He blogs twice a week at www.matthearnden.com just self-published his first book:42. Matt writes every day because he loves it and because it stops him watching Netflix. And, probably more importantly, he plays basketball and has lots of tattoos. You can find him on Twitter, IG & Quora.
Image courtesy of Sergey Zolkin.