on writing

post the other day inspired me to start thinking about my own history with the written word.

I was darn near born a reader, and very quickly turned into a writer as well.

When I was three, I left my uncle astonished and amazed by my “reading” skills… until he realized I’d just memorized my favorite book and pretended to read it. My parents’ friends memories of my childhood always involve books; my father’s best friend modeled his own parenting after the way my dad would always read to me whenever I asked. I didn’t have a bedtime past the age of seven because my parents knew I would just read in bed, and far be it from them to stop me from reading!

I couldn’t go anywhere without a book. We lived in the country and it was at least a twenty-minute drive to the nearest grocery store, so every time I’d accompany mom in the car, it would be with my nose in a book. Every month I would demand my mother drive me to Meijer so I could pick up the newest Goosebumps and Babysitters Club books. If it was possible to come out of the womb reading, I would have.

But writing, that was a process. In first grade, my teacher sent home a note to my parents informing them of my remedial handwriting skills. Never one with strong hand-eye coordination, I was apparently developing my handwriting much slower than my peers (all I remember of this in class was the day we learned to write the number “9” in kindergarten and I drew a line with a circle on top. “Those are some nice lollipops,” my teacher said, “but let’s see some nines!”) and it needed to be fixed immediately. The teacher suggested I play with those cardboard lace-up cards, finger paints, and clay to develop my hand-eye coordination. I remember messing around with some finger paint that evening.

What I most remember is what I did afterwards. I went to bed and stayed up (what I remember being) really, really late, just writing. I had a lined notepad and a pen, and I just wrote for what felt like hours. Never again were there complaints about my handwriting, suggestions of finger painting, or anything of the sort. And suddenly, I was a writer.

I recently came across that “story.” Much like I remembered it, it was just a list of names, carefully drafted on my wide-ruled paper. Another story, written not long after that, was another list of people who were “sitting down” and “lying down.” Clearly, I was creatively gifted (or, uh, not). Slowly I started writing actual stories, most of which revolved around animals and their many babies. My friend Jennifer and I began writing more off-the-wall stories as we got older, which segued into my friend Sara and I writing stories with characters who had our own names, yet cleverly masked – for example, I turned myself and my fifth-grade crush Bryan into twins (ew, right?) named Kristynne and Briyan. Really.

In eighth grade, I discovered poetry. We studied it in English class and were assigned a project: make a calendar with a poem for each month. One day, I realized poetry could be good for more than just writing about the weather in December – I could write about my life, and an entirely new world was opened up. I still remember the first few lines of my (rhyming) first poem, and yes, it was about my crush that year and the teenage devastation of him having no idea I existed. I turned into a poetry fiend, scribbling lines in my spiral notebook while I listened to music and cried (and oh, if only I were joking and weren’t actually the poster child for emo kids everywhere).

I grew up. I stopped rhyming. I started posting my poetry on the internet. I scribbled on napkins at my fast-food job. I wrote about cancer, about people I encountered on the bus, but I mostly wrote about boys and heartbreak and things I still barely understood. And then, a few years later, it dried up completely. For awhile, this made me sad, until I realized I’m not a poet. Poetry involves a lot more than randomly-spaced sentences and line breaks and I don’t have those skills.

Now, after a few years of barely writing anything, I’m starting to want to jump back in. The problem is I’m still not much more creative than I was when I was seven and writing stories about animals having babies. I love bookstores and imagining someday seeing my own books on the shelf. I love reading about authors’ writing processes, how they develop their characters and move them through lives they hadn’t even thought of when they began. I totally understand the way some writers feel like their characters are real people, living their own lives in some other universe.

I’m not creative. I couldn’t come up with a compelling story right now if you offered me a billion dollars to do it. Right now I tide myself over by reminding myself that maybe I’ll do something amazing with my life and be able to write a memoir. Maybe someday my blog will get more than four readers and it’ll lead my writing somewhere. I just need to stop trying to give up on this particular dream, because it’s been around as long as I can remember, and no matter what I try to do to stifle it, it just keeps coming back.

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