What influenced me to be a writer?

I’m often asked questions by other writers on how I got started writing, and for advice to them on their own writing. I try to answer as many of your emails and Facebook posts as I can, but sometimes I can’t get to them all. So I’ve gathered some of the best questions about writing, and my answers to them, here.

Q. Why did you choose writing?

A. Writing allows me to explore, wherever and whatever I choose. It’s taken me back in time, to a distant galaxy, to the place where the sea begins. Best of all, though, writing is a way to explore the biggest questions of life. Not to find the answers, perhaps, but to do some thoughtful exploring of the questions. The two most rewarding parts of the experience are, first, when a word or character or place or idea comes out just right—and, second, when something I’ve written truly touches someone in some way. Some of the letters I’ve received have been unforgettable enough to keep me up late at night working on the next book. 

Q. What’s the best thing about writing?

A. The best thing is making a word, a place, a character, a dilemma or an idea come alive. Truly alive. For both writer and reader. Then I have a chance to touch other people in a deep and lasting way. And I am more alive than ever before.

Q. Do you consider yourself successful?

A. Yes, I do consider myself successful, although there is much more I hope to accomplish in my lifetime. I really wish I could have more impact on our society and our democracy, which are in trouble in many ways, and on nature and wilderness, which are under siege by careless human activity. The one place I feel completely successful is as a dad—and that makes me more happy than anything else.

Q. What would be your advice to young writers?

A. For starters, writing is the hardest work I’ve ever done—as well as the most joyous work I’ve ever done. Which is why all the hard labor is worthwhile. But in this regard, talent will only take you a small part of the distance you need to go. What is necessary in addition is discipline and persistence. Stay with your writing, no matter how many rewrites it takes to get it right!