After The Fact

I can remember, as strange as it sounds, the point when I realized I wanted to be a writer as a career. Or, at least, a point when I realized that I was going to write as part of whatever the hell I actually wanted to do for a living.

It was in the final year of my Bachelor’s Degree at art school, oddly enough; by this point in my life, I’d actually been writing for some time — as a kid, like everyone else, I’d been writing the comic strips that I was eagerly drawing, telling myself that the words were really just there to give me something to draw. Unlike everyone else, though, I kept doing that until my early 20s, and I started doing that in public, writing and drawing comic strip and other things for the university newspaper.

Even with that, though, I hadn’t thought, oh, this writing thing, I think I want to keep at it. The university newspaper stuff was successful enough, and brought with it a small amount of recognition, or what passes for it at that level. (Really, it was my partner-in-crime Andy who got more of that; he was the more talented, and the more recognizable, of the two of us.) It still felt like a diversion, though, and so I quit before my final year of study, promising myself that I’d buckle down and take the actual school work more seriously. No more writing; I’d just work on the illustration part, instead.

And then I realized that I wanted to have something to illustrate.

Again, initially, it felt like when I was a kid; the words were there to back up the pictures. At some point, that changed. I can’t remember exactly when, but I can remember making my pitch to the teachers in charge of selecting who’d get into the Masters degree program the following year, and telling them very clearly that I’d only just scratched the surface of what I should be doing.

“I’ve been doing it all backwards,” I said. “The thing I can do well isn’t the visuals; I can do that well enough, but it’s really about what the visuals are there to support. I think I need to write more and see what happens.”

I didn’t know what I wanted to write, or what I would write. I didn’t think I’d become a journalist, but I also didn’t think I’d become a fiction writer, or essayist, or anything else, either. It really was as simple as I put it at the time: I needed to write more, and see what happens. I still feel like that now, more than two decades later.

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