In a brief autobiography, Octavia Butler (1947 – 2006) described herself simply:
“I’m comfortably asocial – a hermit in the middle of a large city, a pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty and drive.”
At the age of 4 she created stories about a magical horse; she was the horse. As a 10-year-old, she was already putting those stories down on paper.
By the time an aunt told her “Honey, Negroes can’t be writers,” it was too late. At 13, Butler was already tapping out new worlds on a Remington portable…
Donna Oliver, a childhood friend, told The Times in 1998: “She wasn’t the outgoing type. She was very, very shy and always seemed to be writing instead of playing.”
From obituary: Octavia Butler, 58; Author Opened the Galaxies of Science Fiction to Blacks. By Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Los Angeles Times February 28 2006.
Octavia Butler’s 12th novel is Fledgling
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In an interview, she commented about developing yourself as a writer:
“I’ve talked to high school kids who are thinking about trying to become a writer and asking ‘What should I major in?’, and I tell them, ‘History. Anthropology. Something where you get to know the human species a little better, as opposed to something where you learn to arrange words.’
“I don’t know whether that’s good advice or not, but it feels right to me. You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. It’s just so easy to give up!”
From Octavia Butler: Persistence (excerpted from Locus Magazine).
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Many successful writers, like Butler, are asocial – preferring isolation, or highly sensitive or introverted. Here is a related article and a couple of sites:
Solitude and creative expression – Erica Jong notes “Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to nurture it in solitude and to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads.” // George Orwell chose to write “Nineteen Eighty-Four” while living in Barnhill (1946-1949), an abandoned farmhouse on the isle of Jura in the Inner Hebrides.