The original subtitle to this post was “My Journey to Becoming a Writer.” However, as I thought about my progression from regular person to “writer,” I realized: I’m not sure that I ever was not a writer. Or, at least, I have always been a storyteller of some sort.
My mother likes to tell me stories about my childhood, as mothers do. Whenever my love for language comes up, she likes to tell me about how I was quick to speak and read. When I was a child, my mom read to me every single night. Apparently, as soon as I could speak in sentences, I would tell her the stories simply by looking at the artwork in the books. Most of the time, I would quote the books verbatim. However, every now and then, I would add my own flourish for dramatic effect. Soon after, I was reading on my own, and I would read the books to my mom with little stumbling over words.
This all happened by the age of three. Like my mom says, I have always been quick to language.
While my storytelling began in my toddler years, I did not take up “writing” until I was about six or seven. My first memory of story writing comes from second grade. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Cram, was brilliant. She gave prizes out to avid readers, directed several plays for her students each year, and best of all, she encouraged creative writing and made time for it in class. One day, she gave us blank pieces of paper stapled into booklets and had us make our own story books. I don’t remember the specifics of my story, but I can clearly see a picture I drew of a young girl standing under a tree and staring up at the Big Dipper. My story was about a girl who ran away from slavery during the Civil War and traveled north to find her freedom. Heavy stuff for a seven-year-old, I know. If anyone feels like psycho-analyzing that, have at it.
The rest of my elementary school years are spotted with memories of writing. First, I recall computer class. On special days, our teacher allowed us to use a story-making software to create our own story books. This was my favorite aspect of computer class, and I would meticulously craft my sentences and construct the perfect image from the clip art templates. Next, I remember my fifth grade class with Mrs. Vopat, who also gave us free time for creative writing each day.
In Mrs. Vopat’s class, I wrote the second story I remember from my childhood. It was titled “The Adventures of Kate and Lizzie,” and it featured my best friend and me as mystery solvers who saved our crushes from danger. I was too shy to read it aloud to the class, so my friend read it for me. Even though we are no longer close, this childhood best friend is still one of my biggest fans, and I can honestly say that her enthusiasm for my writing, both then and now, has given me a great deal of confidence and reassurance. So, if you read this, thank you.
In middle school, I switched gears to the world of fan fiction. I religiously used Quizilla (back when it was cool and the HTML-savvy ruled) to write and read all kinds of fan works. I started out writing NASCAR fan fiction, of all things, and even co-authored a series with another fan my age. In high school, I wrote an embarrassing (okay, I’m actually really proud of it) amount of Harry Potter fan fiction. My Draco Malfoy romance series (okay, that sounds embarrassing) frequently made the Most Popular and Highest Rated lists, and I had many loyal readers. If I put each story’s chapters together, I probably wrote three full-length books. My experience on Quizilla taught me three things: that I can finish projects, that my writing is actually decent (even if it is just fan service), and that I work best when I feel held accountable to people (ie: my readers).
When university rolled around, I pursued two Bachelor degrees: English (with concentrations in literature and creative writing) and Sociology. Unfortunately, my university was small, so there was only one creative writing professor. While she was fantastic at teaching poetry (which I hadn’t written since a seventh grade Language Arts unit) and creative nonfiction (which I had never heard of and is now my best genre), she was not the best at teaching fiction. I understand this perfectly, as fiction is out of her realm of expertise. However, the result of this is that I spent my college career waxing poetic and recounting my life in new way. Useful and enjoyable skills, applicable to fiction, but not fiction. I haven’t made a real go at fiction writing in about three or four years. Needless to say, this leaves me a little nervous for this year’s NaNoWriMo.
Despite all this, I am confident that I can get back to that place of fiction writing. Why? Ever since I could talk, I’ve been crafting stories, and even when I’ve been writing poetry and nonfiction, my mind has been swimming in fiction ideas. When inspiration strikes, it still strikes as a fiction story. Fiction, well, it’s in the stars for me.
And all I have to do — just like that little girl in my first ever story — is follow my stars to freedom.