Louis de Wohl (1903-1961)
WHEN A MAN HAS REACHED A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF SUCCESS in his profession, people will come to him and ask questions. Now whenever someone asked me "Should I become a writer?" I invariably answered point-blank "No." Some were hurt, some angry, almost all of them were surprised. "Why not?" "Because you haven't got the stuff in you." "How do you know? You have never read anything I have done, have you?" "No. But I know all the same. I know because you asked me. If you had the stuff in you that makes a writer, you wouldn't ask me, you'd go and write and go on writing. You couldn't abstain from it."
And that goes, in my opinion, for all creative work; for would-be actors, architects, painters, sculptors, and musicians. Mind you, there are quite a number of people who cannot abstain from it, although they do not have the stuff in them, but that is beside the point.
As for me, I started writing at the age of seven or just a little older, and what really set me off was that some of the stories I read did not go the way I wanted. I simply decided to change them, and change them I did. At the age of eight I wrote a play, "Jesus of Nazareth," and the great speech of the High Priest Caiphas in the marketplace of Jerusalem bore a strong resemblance to Mark Antony's speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Caiphas praised Christ in the same hypocritical way that Mark Antony praised Brutus, to convince his audience of the contrary. Plagiarism or not, I was very much in earnest about my drama. I decided to compose the music for it myself, paint the posters and design the scenery, and of course I myself would play one of the leading parts, Caiphas perhaps, or Mary Magdalene
I laughed out loud when I read the part of Louis de Wohl’s biography where he writes that some of the stories he read when he was 7 years old did not “go the way I wanted. I simply decided to change them and change them I did.”
I did the same thing when I was about the same age! I had a mystery book which characters included two boys and a girls all the same age. I changed their names to my own and two friends and changed some of the adventures they had to match my own. From there I decided I could write my own stories and began my career as a budding writer by age 8!
And what he said about knowing if someone is a writer or not? I understood his somewhat cut to the quick answer too. Too many times I’ve had people tell me, wow that’s so great you have written a book. I’ve always wished I could write a book!” And I look at them and say, “Well, why haven’t you?” And they stumble around with this excuse or that. But really, what is your excuse for not writing a book? I self published all my books so you can’t use the, “No body will look, buy, read, care, or whatever, my book.” That is no excuse! I didn’t care if anybody read my stories. I liked them, I wrote them for my own enjoyment. It was just a fluke that my kids like to read them too and some other kids and some friends. I didn’t begin trying to write for all of them, just me!So if you ARE a writer, first of all you already know you are so you don’t need to ask me or anyone else and secondly, get writing. Buy notebooks and begin…there is no excuse!