It’s sort of an odd thing, really, that I’m writing a novel. I mean when I’m in the thick of it, when I’m smithing sentences and dancing my fingers across a keyboard (or dragging my hand through the ink till it’s black – ain’t it great to be a lefty?) it seems like the most natural thing in the world…but it wasn’t. Not for me.
Somewhere in my daily round of procrastination, as I trolled through the blogosphere to avoid doing something more productive, I cam across a post that asked a very simple question.
“What is your first memory of writing?”
I had to think about that one for a while.
The truth is, I wasn’t much of a writer as a kid. Yes, I have those little “From the Archives” posts every once in a while, but if you notice, there’s nothing earlier than middle school.
Part of this is the result of the Great Hard Drive Crash of ’08 (a moment of silence please), but the greater part is that I just wasn’t writing then.
The earliest things I can remember writing are stories in school. I struggled mightily. In first grade we would draw pictures and then write the words below. I was always just fine with drawing – it was the captioning I found hard. Later, in third grade perhaps (my memories are fuzzy on the subject) we had time set aside for writing stories or journal entries in little notebooks. I sat and looked at a blank page.
Words were Nothing, Words were Everything
I’ve always been a visual person. My brother is more auditory – when he asks me for help on his homework, he reads the questions out loud to me and doesn’t understand why I can’t process them until I’ve taken the paper and read them for myself.
When I’m trying to work something out, I visualize it. If that’s not enough, I sketch, diagram, draw.
So generating words…that was hard.
But then again, I loved to read. I devoured books, consumed them like a drowning man gasping for air. I read everything and anything, from the back of my cereal box to a book far above my supposed level. (In lower school, we were all paired up with an older/younger child as a reading buddy – fourth with first grade, and second and third grade with kindergarten. When I was in first grade, I didn’t allow my buddy to read to me. Neither did I select any of the picture books on offer in our classroom. I got my Nancy Drew books from my locker, and I read to her.)
So this is a paradox, isn’t it? I loved words, but struggled to write my own. I had plenty of imagination – concocted epic stories in my head, daydreamed fantastic adventures – but couldn’t translate any of it to the page.
And yet, I write.
The State of the Union
How did it start? Honestly, I’m not really sure. I played around a bit with writing, mostly because I had a friend who wrote stories and it seemed like a cool thing to do. I wasn’t any good at it. I started, but never stopped. I have notebooks filled with page-or-two-long “stories” featuring obvious self-inserts and going nowhere.
And then we got to high school, and somehow I got the harebrained idea that I wanted to write a novel.
I think I fell into it through boredom more than anything. My mom likes to say that when I get bored, I get creative – and it’s true. The creative arts scratch and itch that I can’t quite explain, and make me feel more happy and more fulfilled than at any other moment, really. It’s why I dance, why I photograph, why I play the piano, why I sketch (badly). And, I suppose, it’s why I write.
I’m not sure what turned me on to the publishing industry. Maybe I just wondered what went into all those novels I hoard on my shelves (seriously, it’s ridiculous). In any case, that’s where I started – learning about slush piles and agents and editors and the publishing process (for the curious, this is the first thing I remember reading – the post that lit the fire). Then I looked up the writers of my favorite books – they had websites! Mostly plain ones, since my favorite authors tended to be on the older side and maybe not as up on html. But they had FAQs and writing advice and even blog posts, sometimes.
So then I found NaNoWriMo. And they made it seem so easy. Write a novel? Anyone can do it, if you’re dedicated enough! That appealed to me, especially since my other great artistic love, ballet, is not nearly so democratic.
But I’m a planner, at heart. I like to be prepared. If I’m going to do something, I’m not going to fool around – I’ll do it at the highest level I can. So I researched. And read. And learned.
And that process led me to a bunch of really wonderful people (and more, whom I can’t link but deserve thanks all the same). I can’t really say enough how much they’ve influenced my path, via encouragement or criticism or simple solidarity.
That was what really got me started, you know. The story I wrote for the third Saucy Ink story collection was the first original piece of fiction (not written for a school assignment) that I ever finished.
So here I am, writing a novel. It’s sort of odd, how it happened. It was a long time coming. I guess I had to absorb enough words and worlds before I could make my own.
It’s interesting to think about the journey, the bird’s eye view of how I talked myself into doing something this insane. But I do want to finish the darn thing, so I’ll climb back down into the trenches and attack Act Two, and the challenges that lie therein (court intrigue is not my forte).
But before I do, I’ll ask you the question that sparked this rambling autobiography.
What is your first memory of writing?