It being Father’s Day tomorrow, I thought I’d ask a family-related question.
Someone posed this question on my screenwriter board: Do you come from a writing family?
His hypothesis was that most writers actually don’t. And the responses certainly bore him out – there was only one out of the dozens of screenwriters who answered him who had a writing pedigree.
I didn’t, either – my parents are scientists. They’re educated and literate but neither has much flair for writing, and even though my mother had us going to dance lessons and piano lessons and museums and galleries all the time, both of them – as most parents! – were dismayed when I went into theater after college, and are still a little stunned that I’ve made a living at writing all this time.
BUT – my parents also are huge readers. There were overflowing bookshelves in every room of the house when I was growing up. My father was a huge genre reader, specifically, and he had, randomly, collected just about every sci fi and horror classic out there. So his reading taste had just about everything to do with my writing education.
And Mom did make me and my siblings write something every single day for a long time, even before kindergarten. That enforced habit was a critical factor in my writing training. And not just for me- my sister and brother also are great writers – my artist sister has a true genius for it, and my brother is a songwriter and very good with prose as well.
There were other things my parents did that prepared me for a writing career, but I think that the most important one was about gender. They were both incredible role models for me as a woman. My mother was fearless. Definitely not the cookie-baking kind of mom. Very early on I saw her going head to head with city councilmen and the mayor over community political issues and the message I got was very clear – women can do anything.
I got the same message from my father – he never made me think that I couldn’t do as well, as much, and more than any boy in any class. He expected me to make a living with my brain – and I never had any doubt that I could. Other girls my age were definitely NOT getting that message from their parents.
And maybe even more important than that – they both were passionate about their work. It was very clear to me from their example that you’re supposed to do what you love for a living. And although they may sometimes have regretted sending that message – I think it was the greatest gift.
Because it’s not just writing training that makes you a writer, is it?
So how about you all? What lessons did you get from your parents (whether intended or not!) that made you the writer – or other profession – that you are? Let’s see what patterns might emerge.
And Happy Father’s Day to all our fathers!