You’re sitting in math, or English, or history, or whatever, and you’re industriously scribbling away in your notebook. Math problems? Verbs vs. adverbs? Reasons for the Civil War, or the discovery of the West Indies?
Nope. You’re writing, right? Outlining plots, building new, imaginary worlds, drawing maps and even pictures of these worlds, detailing character sketches, or even inventing a new language. You’re paying NO attention to the lecture, and your teacher has no clue--well, at least til she calls on you, and the jig is up. For awhile, anyway.
You’re possessed by such an intense need to write that sometimes nothing else in the world even matters. Okay, fine--maybe you’ll put it away for awhile and at least pretend to listen to the old hag’s yammering. But the second you get a chance, out comes the notebook, and you continue to scribble with one eyeball glued to the teacher. If she catches you again, you’ll probably end up with a bit of public humiliation (wouldn’t be the first time, right?) or, worse, another freaking detention and maybe a note to your parents: “(your name) refuses to pay attention in class and seems to find her own personal writing much more interesting than this course.” Well, duh. Really?
What could possibly be more interesting than creative writing—your own personally-invented world, your very own characters, and the impossible situations you like to throw them into? Nothing, that’s what. When you’re working on a story, it consumes you completely. Nobody understands—not your parents, certainly not your teachers (although if you’re lucky enough to be taking a creative writing class, there might be an exception there...but don’t hold your breath) and not even your best friends who wonder, why do you want to hole up and write when you could be cruising the mall, playing sports, or simply hanging out with their own wonderful selves?
The answer is simple: writing is your passion. Even when you aren't writing, you constantly think about writing. Your characters get stuck in your head and jabber at you endlessly, and—what’s even scarier--sometimes you jabber right back. (“Oh, yeah,” people say, “there’s that weirdo who talks to himself all the time. He writes.”) And if for some reason you’re not able to write, what happens to you? You're positively miserable.
When you were small, you drew pictures, right? And when you learned to print, you added little captions to these pictures. You moved on to actual writing in the second or third grade; maybe you’d watch a movie or a TV show and then write out the whole plot, complete with dialogue, or use those characters in an original story of your own. Later, when you discovered the computer—WOO-HOO, you had it made! While other kids groaned at the idea of writing a creative theme, you, like Ralphie in The Christmas Story, were chomping at the bit, bursting with ideas, eager to have your work read by an objective third party.
When I was a teenager, long before computers (cough, cough) were in everyone’s home, my most treasured possession was an electric typewriter. I actually enjoyed being grounded and sent to my room because it gave me unlimited to write to my heart’s content. When my parents finally wised up, they immediately added a codicil: "GO TO YOUR ROOM--AND I BETTER NOT HEAR THAT DAMN TYPEWRITER!" To muffle the sound, I’d place my typewriter on the bed on top of my pillow. True, it was a pain (I really had to pound hard on those keys to keep 'em from sticking to the pillow) but by the end of high school I’d written three complete novels…which pretty much tells you how often I was grounded. :)
If writing is your passion, hang onto it dearly. Don’t let anyone discourage you with comments such as, “Writing is way too competitive” or “Writers don’t make any money” (both of which can be true, but hello? That's no reason not to give it a shot) or “You need to know somebody in the business" (lie) or “You need money to get a book published” (big FAT lie) or “You need a degree in journalism, or English, or in some other related field.” (lie, lie, and lie).
What you need is talent and the ability to write well (no, these are not the same thing), a working knowledge of the business (easily acquired through books, internet sources, and writers’ groups, both online and face-to-face), and a mountain of sheer determination. Read something every day, even the back panel of your cereal box (although books ARE preferable!)—you can’t possibly learn how to write if you don’t care about reading. Write something of your own every day, just an entry in a journal or a rambling note to yourself. Take creative writing classes whenever you get the chance, and if you ever decide to pay attention in class, please, ple-e-ease make sure it’s your English class. If you can’t master the grammar of your own native language, you can forget about writing; agents and publishers can afford to be picky, and will not waste their time on a manuscript that’s grammatically sloppy, or lacks even the most basic punctuation.
Never stop learning, never stop reading, and for sure—never stop writing! Keep that passion alive! You won't be sorry.