When did you know you wanted to be an author?

All authors have stories about receiving The Call. For some of us, that big, memorable call might have been about the Golden Hearts or the Ritas. Others may have a call story about getting their agent or first sale. Or maybe it’s the first time they hit a best-seller list.

But The Call that we’ve all experienced is the moment we knew that we were called to write stories–that magical moment we scratched a pencil across paper (or put our hands on the keyboard) and knew this is what I was born to do!


I had an author friend once tell me that she knew from the instant she picked up a big fat pencil in first grade that she simply had to be writer. By middle school, she was sitting in math class and writing stories instead of equations.

My story is completely different. When I was in middle school math classes, I was loving those equations. I wanted to be an accountant or a math teacher or an actuary (not that I knew what an actuary did.) Instead, I ended up as a software engineer–and the closest I got to writing anything was emails or technical documentation.

chalkboard with equations

But I do remember the moment that I knew I wanted to write a book. I’d submitted an article to a technical journal. When they accepted it, the response said that the submission had “a lyrical style.” Somehow, that phrase convinced me to make the leap from writing 1000-word articles to…I should write a novel

If only I’d realized how incredibly naive that was! Why did I think that producing technical doc was even remotely related to writing novel-length fiction? I had no idea how hard it would be to learn about character arcs, world building, plot points, setting, voice.  If I’d understood what I was getting into, I might have gone back to my lovely equations–which are much easier to solve than story questions. But twenty years later, I’m so glad I persisted!


Fade to Us cover

How about you? Do you remember when you knew you wanted to write? Did a lightbulb go off? Or have you always just known that you were called to be an author? If you’re willing to share, please tell us your story in the comments.


Elizabeth writes young adult fiction–magical realism and contemporary. Her next book, FADE TO US, releases in February 2018 (writing as Julia Day.)

11 responses to “When did you know you wanted to be an author?”

  1. Vivi Andrews says:

    I love this question, Beth! I’m always fascinated to hear how writers caught the bug. 🙂 I sat down to begin scribbling the stories in my head when I was 13 – purple pen, a spiral-bound notebook, and a fantasy story – but it wasn’t until 10 years later that I thought “I should try to do this as a career.”

  2. I loved stories forever and always created my own. Growing up, I was the one that told the stories around the campfires. I’d planned to go to Bennington College for journalism but live life intervened. Twenty years later, I decided it was my time to give writing as a career a try.

    Now, when I meet young girls who want to become writers, I encourage them to not give up on their dreams.

    I often wonder what my life would’ve been like if I had followed the path earlier.

  3. I’m the same way about encouraging others. When I started writing 15 years ago, it felt like “winning the lottery” to get published. Now, it’s all about determination and being willing to do a lot of the work yourself if the lottery won’t pay attention.

  4. Looking forward to this discussion, Beth, as knowing the WHY behind anything is so revealing. As for me, I was first a reader. I loved stories as a child and have always surrounded myself with fiction books. Interestingly enough I knew at a very young age that it would be hard to make a living as an author of fiction, so I ended up getting a journalism degree to support my story-telling habit. 🙂

    • My parents encouraged me to pursue computer science over math teacher–for the same reason. “Do something that will let you make a living.” My day job (software engineer) lets me relax about my night job (author).

      The two jobs might seem to be unrelated, but I’ve found they work together well. I taught a workshop called “The Math of Fiction” for my employer and at a local STEM high school. It allows me to incorporate both parts of my brain.

  5. Like Shelley, I was an avid reader. Like you, I was much more into math and science. But I always did well writing essays and such. Writing a book was always on my “bucket list” but I didn’t know what type of book I wanted to write. It wasn’t until I woke up with a scene playing in my head and an urge to write that I caught the writing bug. I started researching how to write and publish a book via Writer’s Digest articles soon after that and then found RWA, and the rest is history. 😉

  6. Darynda Jones says:

    I LOVE this, Beth!!!

    While I’ve been writing since I was five, I didn’t know I wanted to BE a writer until I was in high school. Better yet, my BFF had to tell me. I was kind of floored. I didn’t think I could actually be writer. I was neither a genius nor an alcoholic, two of the staples of the writerly world. Or so I thought. Who knew writes came in a such vast arrays of shapes and sizes and beverage preferences?

    I’m so glad my BFF told me that, though. I’ve loved every second of my career.

  7. Hope Ramsay says:

    I think I might be that person who knew she wanted to write stories in second grade. And yes, I have a vivid memory of holding one of those fat red pencils in my hand, scribbling words onto double lined newsprint. The assignment was to write about the Pilgrims. I think the teacher wanted a couple of sentences, and I wrote several pages filled with lots of drama and waves washing over the gunwales during the long ocean voyage. In the middle of writing, I remember looking up at Mom, who had been helping me spell various words, and saying, “When I grow up I want to be a writer.” And I never wavered from that. Not once. I was on the the middle school literary magazine editorial staff, wrote for my high school newspaper, and even penned a few articles for the Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan’s daily newspaper. I’ve been a speech writer, and a letter writer (for a member of Congress). I’ve edited several newsletters, and had a regular column in Stores Magazine. And while I was doing all that, I wrote fiction on the side. This love affair with words is probably the reason I never gave up when it took a quarter of a century to make my first sale. 🙂

  8. […] When did you know you wanted to be an author? by Elizabeth Langston […]


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