You always remember your first time

I’m watching Gurindher Chadha’s new movie “Blinded by the Light” based on the memoir by Sarfraz Manzoor about Javed, a Pakistani-British boy growing up in Bury Park, a go-nowhere town in the United Kingdom.

Javed wants to be a writer. He writes poems and a diary, but doesn’t think he’s any good. Until his teacher Mrs. Anderson reads them and tells him, “You could be a writer if you put the work in.”

The look on Javed’s face as he hears this acknowledgment of his talent reminded me immediately of the first time anyone told me the same thing. In the same way, a teacher handed me back a short story in class. At the bottom of the paper she’d written, “You could go on to be a writer. It would be a good career.”

I was fourteen and in tenth grade. The words set off an explosion in my head. I hadn’t even realized writing was a career. I hadn’t made the connection between the books that I devoured, like a diabetic fulfilling a sugar craving, and the work of the person writing the book. Until I read those words at the end of my essay, I didn’t even know this was what I wanted to do.

But the explosion went off and couldn’t be undone. Although I buried the dream for a very long time, it came back, twelve years later, and then I got down to do the work of becoming a writer.

EI’m sure every writer has an origin story. When was the first time someone told you that you could be a writer?