“I don’t believe writers can be made, either by circumstances or by self-will. The equipment comes with the original package.”
– Stephen King
I’m not sure if you’ve gathered this from my past posts, but I’m a teensy bit of a nostalgic person. When I’m not out living life (which, to be fair, I do quite a bit), I’m sitting here thinking—and usually writing—about doing it. To me, writing is the best way to capture a memory, make it immortal, because you can always go back to it.
But, that’s not the point of tonight’s post. I’m mentioning nostalgia because I think it’s time, after four years, to tell people how I actually started writing. Only a few people, if any, know the story (don’t worry, it’s nothing mind-blowing). And I’m mentioning the concept of looking back because I constantly look back then, to how naïve I was, and how much I was going to learn but didn’t know it.
Alright, team, here goes.
I know a lot of authors’ bios start the same way: “I loved writing down stories ever since I learned to wrap my meaty little baby hands around a number two pencil!”
Sorry to disappoint, but I loathed writing up to eighth grade. Essay writing was one of the worst punishments the teacher could inflict upon us, and English was easily my lowest grade.
But on the other hand, starting around fifth grade—when I got exceptionally bored in class—I started whipping up adventures in my head. I thought of this team of awesome kids, and awesome quests they would go on. I hadn’t yet read Harry Potter, Percy Jackson or the like, so it was a simplistic idea. To my credit, I was ten.
Well, my drifting thoughts started affecting my grades in school. In seventh grade, my parents decided to home school me. While that wasn’t the worst year of my life, it definitely taught me that these stories were best left in the back of my head. And oh yeah, I still hated writing.
I started eighth grade and, bent on keeping my scores up, got all A’s. I reconnected with all my friends that I’d left behind, and that was the most fun year of school I’d ever had.
Towards the end of the year, when the eighth grade version of senioritis was just starting to kick in, one day changed up the dynamic, so to speak, of everything. It was pouring rain outside, which I loved and still do for some reason. Rain has always seemed like a good sign to me, especially when you can just stay inside where it’s dry and warm. I’ve always associated it with writing (in case you’ve been wondering about my blog header all this time).
The school day happened like normal, I got home and did my homework, and had some time to relax. Well, I’ve never been a daring kid, but that night thirteen-year-old me decided to do something risky. Possibly even…dangerous.
I watched Disney Channel.
Tonight’s feature was some movie called Read It and Weep.
It was a pretty forgettable movie. The basic plot is that this girl writes fictional stories about kids in her school, making them cool characters, and then she accidentally turns the story into her English teacher for an assignment. The story is soon published, and she becomes a bestselling author.
I know I shouldn’t have looked too deep into this—it was a Disney movie, after all—but all kinds of questions popped up in my mind after finishing it. How does a story just turn into a book? And how could an English assignment rise to fame that quickly? I mean…what?
Don’t get me wrong, I knew that sort of thing could never happen in real life. But even the idea of a kid writing a book, using their thoughts and emotions as fuel, was unheard of to me.
I ran into my room, slammed the door shut, and opened a blank word document. All of the lights were off except my overhead reading lamp, but I liked it better that way. It made me feel more isolated, especially with the rain still coming down.
Okay. Write down the stories. Write down every word now before you forget about them.
It’s been three years.
It doesn’t matter. You still remember them, right? Do it. Do it now.
I don’t know what to say.
I put my head in my hands and stared at the blank page on the laptop. It was quarter to ten…what was I even doing? What was I doing?
This isn’t what I do. Coming up with stories is for creative people…I don’t have anything good to say. I can’t say anything; it’ll suck. It’ll suck a LOT.
You can write the words and fix them later. As long as you have SOMETHING.
‘Something’ isn’t good enough.
It’s better than nothing.
I started a few words, then immediately backspaced them. Because I realized that for all of my plot inventing in the last few years, my stories were like a dream: I had no idea how they started out.
It’s okay. You created these things, you can create a beginning. It’s okay.
I started to type a paragraph describing a swirling vortex of light—that was as good a place as any—then deleted it after its second read through. This was like drowning in a river and finding the right words was trying to breathe; air just wouldn’t stay down.
Just tell the story like you know it.
I don’t know where to START.
Then don’t start anywhere. Just say what’s on your mind. You’ll probably want to know years from now what you were thinking tonight.
Probably not. But okay.
I took a breath and tapped out the first thing that came to mind.
“I see myself in the future. In a way, I can picture myself sitting here at a laptop in a year, or two, or three. And I think I’ll still be typing.”
I stopped typing.
Keep it coming. Write until you can start on the story.
“I’m only thirteen years old right now, but this has been all I can think about lately, and I’m finally getting myself to sit down and write this. Even now, I can see myself watching the end of the story in my mind, and I know exactly what it will look like.”
Great. I hadn’t even started chapter one yet, and this was turning into the freaking Magna Carta.
Alright, enough. Time to write.
I started again with the description of light, then added a few things.
That night, I wrote a solid paragraph or so, describing the light leading to a small dorm room inside a huge building, like a temple.
Then from there I opened a second word document and just wrote out everything I knew about the storyline, and characters, and setting. Every detail that had been in my mind for the past three years. It wasn’t even in sentences, just one huge stream of words that only I would be able to make sense of.
I still didn’t know why I was doing it. The only way I could even get myself through that night was by promising myself I would never show the story to anyone, not friends or family. It was just a little private side activity.
I went to bed that night without sleeping. And the next day after school, I wrote again before even touching my homework. After all, by now I’d learned how to keep the stories from interfering with school.
Except they weren’t called stories anymore. True, my book didn’t have a name, but the world in which it took place did.
The world was called Halshaeon. The name I came up with out of nowhere, on the day I became a writer. On the date exactly four years ago today, at 9:45 PM.
On April 1st, 2009, the day that changed my life.