Back to the beginning

I don’t remember how old I was when I really started writing, but I remember the story. It was about a girl who found a boy with wings in the woods behind her house. His name was — ready for this? — Flyboy. I think I was a Freshman in high school. It was this long meandering story about how this girl and her veterinary mother nursed Flyboy back to health, and then scientists caught up with him to take him back to the lab for further “research.” I think I swapped this back and forth with my friend Jessica Marxen, and she wrote half. It filled a whole notebook of looseleaf paper.

It was all longhand, and all crap.

High school is an interesting time to be experimenting with writing. You’re not as afraid of what people will think, so your writing is more open, more raw. It’s a good time for obsessive habits, of which writing is definitely one for me. I remember my Pre-Calc teacher seeing me pull out a notebook from my backpack, and saying, “No, no. No writing your stories in my class.”

At the time I remember being indignant, but now when I look back, I wonder. Just how much was I writing that she knew which notebook held my stories? It’s not like she was my English teacher. She was my math teacher.

I have page after page of stories where my friend Sarah Perrich took notes and made comments in the margin. She used to tell me I didn’t know how to punctuate, but really, it was more about writing fast. Again, it was all longhand. We didn’t have a real computer until I was 16, and I sure didn’t know how to type.

I learned real quick.

When I was a junior in high school, I wrote a short story about a boy sitting in his kitchen, contemplating suicide, and the devil and an archangel show up to start bickering over his soul. Wait, I think I put it on the blog once: Don’t judge me on this writing. I actually let a teacher read it.

He kind of frowned and said, “You have guys kissing.”

Oh yeah, I went to an all girls high school, too.

When I was in my late twenties, I started taking my writing seriously. I wrote a Real Novel.

But see, I’d hit my late twenties, and all those silly adult insecurities had crept in. Could I use the F word? What would people think if the male protag shed a tear? If the main character had a fight with her mother, would people assume I was fighting with my mother?

The book didn’t go anywhere.

I was writing scared. I was writing safe.

Then I had a child.

Something happens when a kid enters your life. Suddenly you’re responsible for another being, and it’s not enough to keep yourself safe. You have to protect another being. Not just physically — emotionally, too. I’m not a confrontational person, but I had to learn to stand up for not only myself, but my son, too.

That changed the way I write.

The funny thing is that I was on the right track in my teens. I had to shed all the adult crap to write the way I was supposed to.

I didn’t realize how heavy all that baggage was until I dumped it.

~

6 thoughts on “Back to the beginning

  1. That’s funny, I once had a joint writing effort with my friend in junior high school, for the school newspaper. Her beginning was this dark portrait of a Vietnam vet struggling to reintegrate into peacetime society, and then it was my turn to write a section:

    There’s a werewolf at the door! She’s part of a secret society of shapeshifters, and she wants his help saving the world . . .

    So yes, I think you could safely say mine was crap too.

  2. I can relate to this. I wrote and wrote and wrote – anguished poems of existential angst, plays and stories. I still have lots of it and I promised myself to love it for what it is – me learning to be a writer.

  3. Thanks for commenting, guys! It’s amazing how the stuff we write in high school is crap, but still the core of the writers we’ll turn out to be. I have a box of old stories from high school, and even though they’re bad, I can still see the beginnings of my “voice.” Cool stuff.

  4. I guess it makes sense that you can’t write some things until you hit a particular stage in your own personal development. And of course, it’s different for everybody. I don’t have any stories about writing as a kid because I never did creative writing AT ALL until I decided to write a book the day I turned 35. I don’t really think I could have done it until then.

  5. My second-grade teacher told me that I had to write about something other than princesses, witches, and knights in my “Free Writing” assignments. Apparently it was a misnomer.

    I wrote crap then, I wrote crap as a teen, and I still write crap now. Here’s to hoping 2011 is the first year when my crap turns into something readable.

  6. I did the same thing, only my writing in high school tended to take on the voice of whatever writer I was reading. Which means I had one that sounded like Dickens wrote it and another like it was penned by J.D. Salinger. And both were crap.

    It took years (and maybe maturity) for me to find my own voice.

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