A Surprising Skill that Helped Make a Writer

I started college at age 23. I had never written anything--no letters, no postcards, no notes, no diaries--nothing but what teachers made me write, and then only the bare minimum, no re-writes, and yet in college I managed all A's in all my writing courses, published the second short story I ever wrote in a national magazine (Cavalier, Playboy imitator), had my own column in the school newspaper, and got into Stanford creative writing grad school. I puzzled over this success, because it didn't seem to make any sense. And then it dawned on me that when I was a student at St. Joseph's Elementary School in Keene, NH, I liked diagramming sentences. I even diagrammed sentences on my own time for fun. I never wrote, but I planted the rules of writing in my head. Later in high school my best subject was geometry. When I started to write seriously, I was ready. I hope you'll forgive me for bragging and see my point: If a writer can learn and internalize the rules of grammar, especially the diagramming of sentences (the geometry of language), the craft of shaping sentences will come easily. Oh, one more requirement for the writer: you have to be a reader first. I never met a good writer who wasn't also a good reader. As for talent, inner drive, getting over rejection, acquiring confidence, finding your authentic voice, reaching an audience that will appreciate your own quirky vision, and the shit luck needed to make it in the world of the Word, I dunno.