Myself when young: The shaping of a writer - Daphne du Maurier If you have writerly inclinations, it helps to be born rich in a time and place where your first 20-plus years can be almost entirely given over to idleness and leisure pursuits. This is Dame Daphne's account of her life from age four until she married at twenty-five. She wrote it as she was approaching her 70th birthday, drawing from the diaries she kept as a youngster. If you've enjoyed her novels, you'll appreciate how her early life nurtured that fertile imagination, and you'll also find some tidbits from real life that she incorporated into her fiction. What I found most striking was the way her innocence was sheltered long into her adolescence. At nearly sixteen years of age, she was still keen to act out Robin Hood scenarios in the woods with her sister. She was eighteen before she found out from a school friend what happens between men and women when they're naked, and her response was "what an extraordinary thing for people to want to do!"Du Maurier's development as a writer wasn't particularly extraordinary until she found her niche. She wrote a lot of bad poetry and struggled with short stories that didn't generate enthusiasm when she submitted them for publication. She remained unfocused and undisciplined in her writing until she was encouraged by a mentor to forget about short stories and just write a novel. She took that advice, and everything changed. She found the focus she'd been lacking and wrote her first novel in ten weeks, followed by two more novels in quick succession.Daphne's experience may be encouraging for frustrated writers. Find the right medium and you may blossom. If you stink at short stories, try a novel. If you stink at fiction, try nonfiction. (And if you stink at writing, self-publish?)