One day in second grade, I learned to write my first short story. It consisted of five lines. That night I walked in front of the TV, obstructing everyone's view and announced that when I grew up I was going to be a writer.
My parents were horrified. "Writers don't make any money," they said. "You'd better be a teacher like we are."
"But words are magic," I said. My parents scowled. Clearly, they didn't believe in magic.
Looking at my family history, they did have something to base their fears on. My great uncle was a brilliant inventor and a gifted poet. He lived a comfortable life from the money his inventions brought in but he was forced to give his poems away for free to the local newspaper. It was the only way he could get them published.
I stopped talking to my parents about writing but my dream of becoming a writer didn't die. In college I took one creative writing class. It was a very traumatic experience as the students were hyper-critical of other student's writings. At the end of the semester, the professor singled me out and gave me some advice: "Do nothing in your life but write. But don't write for publication; they will ruin you. Instead find a benefactor who will support you and your art. Don't get a job. Don't get married. And whatever you do, don't have children. Just write."
As he was leaving he turned and added, "And don't live your life like a novel. If you do, you'll lead a horrible life."
With that he left and I was so overwhelmed that I put my head down on the old oak desk and cried. For the next ten years I took none of his advice. Instead I tried to appease my parents. I wrote very little. I lived my life like a tragic novel.
It wasn't until I went to Japan that the urge to write took over my life. During the day, I taught school and I had so many ideas that I didn't have time to write them down. I practiced remembering the ideas to write down later. I could remember twelve ideas in one day but any more than that and I lost them forever.
I did nothing at night but write. For the first time in ten years, my life made sense to me. And I remembered what I knew in second grade... Words are magic. With words, we can create worlds. We can do anything, be anything. Words can heal. Words can solve problems. Words can save the world.