I'm currently reading The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers. There is a new edition out, updated for the modern publishing world. I'm reading the 2000 edition which was available at the library.
These two quotes (among others) hit me:
"When I meet a new writer, at some point I usually ask if he or she wrote as a child. I have found that the impulse to write, to record one's private feelings, often appears at a very early age; with few exceptions, most authors started writing in childhood."
"People are motivated to write for a variety of reasons, but it's the child writer who has figured out, early on, that writing is about saving your soul."
I was a child writer. I wrote my first play about the dolls who lived in my dollhouse when I was eight or nine (if not younger). I wrote bad poetry, much of it about nature. I started writing my autobiography when I was nine! As laughable as it is to me now, I actually thought I had lived enough by the age of nine to record my life story. I don't think I got very far. I started my first novel (I intended it to be a children's story on par with "Alice in Wonderland") when I was in 6th grade. I never finished it.
While no longer a child, my writing continued as a teenager. I was on my high school's literary magazine. I wrote more bad poetry, now mostly about love and broken hearts. I got my first rejection letter when I actually dared to submit one of those poems to a magazine. (I still have the letter) I wrote essays. I attempted another novel I didn't finish. I wrote research papers (I actually enjoyed them). I started my journal which I have kept since I was fifteen.
Yes, writing is part of who I am. I can't imagine not writing in some form, although for many years my only writing was in my journal. Does it save my soul? No. God does that. But, it does help me make sense of things and keep me sane. It is my release, my expression, my reaching out to the world.