When I was a teenager and people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I often shrugged (I was a big shrugger back then). Maybe an inventor. Or an engineer. Or maybe I'd like to own my own business. (This is in contrast to my brother who wanted to be a bear when he grew up. In his defense, he was only about four years old when he said it.) Beyond those generalities, though, I didn't have much of a clue. And I have to admit, those were merely vague ideas. A lot of things interested me, but I couldn't really pinpoint any one that I wanted to devote my career to.
So I went to college and majored in mechanical engineering, figuring that would keep me on track for any of my career choices (besides, I was always good with math and science). Four years later, I had my degree and took a job in manufacturing, as an engineer on the management track.
Ho hum. The jobs were mostly boring; a smattering of interesting things here and there kept them from being full-out terrible. But after a few years of moving around the country, supervising assembly workers in factories, I'd had enough.
So I went to business school. I could still become an inventor and I could still start my own business.
Two years later, MBA in hand, I found myself back in the working world, toiling at jobs that were mostly boring, scintillating parts few and far between. Ho ho hum.
So I quit and started my own newsletter company, writing and editing environmental newsletters (called, strangely enough, Environmental Newsletters, Inc.). That held my interest for eight years or so, but with the coming of the Internet, my business model was changing fast. I could tell that charging for information, with so much free stuff coming on-line, was going to be a tough sell.
So I sold the business, and now, years later, I find myself writing fiction.
If you told me I'd be writing fiction when I was in high school, I would have looked at you funny (right before I snorted milk out my nose). Writing? I hated English class. I hated reading all those "classic" books. I hated discussing themes and character motivations and just about anything else writing-related. Sure, I liked reading science fiction novels, but that was about it.
I always envied those people who knew what they wanted to do with their lives, professionally, since high school. They always sounded so positive, so confident, in their choices. How could they know what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives? I barely knew what I wanted for lunch.
I guess life is just one big story with plenty of surprising twists.
Just like my books, I hope.
What about you, writers? When did you know you wanted to write when you grew up?