Becoming a Writer

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When I was a little girl, I wanted to become a writer. Throughout the years, I wanted to be a doctor who wrote, a professor who wrote, and even a forest ranger who wrote, but the desire to make a writing life never ever abandoned me.

The only time I felt any peace or satisfaction as a teenager was when I was putting words down onto the page. And so I wrote. I wrote a lot, because I needed peace and I needed satisfaction and because I could not find it anywhere else. I wrote in the margins of my notebooks, and I wrote notes to my friends, and I wrote in the journal I carried with me at all times. I wrote my dreams, my fears, my complaints, my feelings, and all the things I felt I could not tell anyone.

Twenty years later, when I was recovering from my stroke and healing and reclaiming my memory, I wrote in my journal as therapy. My journal was my short term memory bank. It was my reassurance that I would “come back like Lance Armstrong.” I would write and write, and thus rebuild my neural pathways like muscles doing a particular movement in order to come back a better writer.

Writing has saved my life in so many ways. Writing enabled dreams, it heard my secrets, it gave me comfort, and it healed me.

I’ve thrown away many diaries and journals–at one point during my freshman year of college, I burned them all in a boyfriend’s fireplace, watching my secrets turn into smoke. I regret doing so, even though at the time I felt I absolutely needed to do just that. I felt I had to burn my past to move forward.

But there are a few journals that withstood time. I found my creative writing journals from the third grade. I was eight years old. It was 1981.

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The very first entry was the first school writing assignment in which we had to write about our summer vacation. It cracks me up, because the basic imprint of the adult I would become is still there; having not read this in nearly three decades, I discovered that I hated waiting in lines even then.

Also, so much of what’s written is out of emulation–firstly, very apparent is the reasoning of my father, who actually asked us to have a strategy for which rides we rode and when, with the sole purpose of efficiency. If my dad had twelve kids, he’d be the Korean Cheaper By The Dozen Father.

My handwriting is also not my own just yet. It’s emulation of the standard cursive handwriting so many of us were taught back then (do they even teach cursive handwriting in school nowadays?). It’s nice to see the scaffolding of the person I’ve become.

“This summer I went to Disneyland. We went on Small World first because we knew that there was going to be a long line. Then went on the Submarine Voyage. There was a long line. We waited for a long time. And at last it was our turn. We saw lots of mermaids. And then we went on Skyway Fantasyland and the Monorail. The Monorail took us to the Disneyland Hotel and back. Then we went home. At home I put on myplayclothes. I played with my brother. I ate dinner. And then I went to sleep.”

And the next thing may have been my first piece of fiction. Or at least, my first recorded piece of fiction.

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“Once there were four friends. Their names were Shorty the snail, Slow Poke the turtle, Fuzzy the duck, and Big Mouth the beaver. They were always helping. It started like this. One day Fuzz was taking a walk. Suddenly he slipped and fell in a pit. He yelled a lot and then at lat there was help. It was Big Mouth. He pulled Fuzzy out of the pit and thats why they helped a lot.”

Apparently, I had not yet been taught any comma rules.

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11 Comments

Filed under Life, The Personal, Writing

11 responses to “Becoming a Writer

  1. womanwhowritesstuff

    I have some of my creative writing from elementary school as well. I did manage to fight the urge to destroy everything from highschool/college. I still look back at the work just to see where I’ve been.

  2. sharline

    This is so great, Christine. I want to cry. I want to hold little you!

  3. akwhitacre

    My curse is that I’m distracted from your writing’s loveliness by the fact that your teacher didn’t use a direct-address comma.

    Sigh. I’m off to take my dose of Appositive™ to clear out my semicolon and hide under the covers. Gah. Just subordinate me now.

  4. akwhitacre

    Okay for real now. 🙂 “Do they even teach cursive handwriting in school nowadays?” Most schools, sadly, no. “It’s emulation of the standard cursive handwriting so many of us were taught back then.” When I get home, I’ll scan my first composition book — our handwriting is nearly identical, except your page doesn’t have a pirate ship at the bottom.

    • I guess I’ll be teaching any of my future children cursive, just for kicks. 😉 My handwriting is nowhere near what it was as an 8 year old. I think sometime around junior high, I started doing my own thing (and still getting ideas from my teachers–I copied my Spanish Teacher (Ms. Coleman’s) “s” and I still have it to this day).

      And no, my teacher didn’t use a direct-address comma. She didn’t use ANY! I became a comma-over-user, and only in recent years, made a conscious decision to try to cut back.

  5. I can’t get nostalgic about my own handwriting (I always rated low on penmanship, and nowadays I think it’s a secret code that Sherlock Holmes would have trouble with), but I do enjoy writing with a pen. All of my stories start that way.

    But should they teach it in schools? On one hand, it’s probably not that useful these days. On the other hand, most of what I was taught when I was in school was questionable (at best), so why not? 🙂

    I envy people with good handwriting. I’d do blog posts in handwriting if mine was really good.

  6. kikipuffs

    this is just too precious. i’m so happy that you kept those notebooks. they’re breathtaking to look at, even through this evil mac computer screen.

  7. LauraMaylene

    Love this, and it totally reminds me of all my own first writing attempts. I even used old photos, etc. in a recent author presentation (http://lauramaylenewalter.com/?p=8326). Sadly, I could not draw a snail nearly as well as you could.

  8. These are wonderful! I love the pictures. And the handwriting is exactly like mine was at that age. Same Ms, W, Ts, Ds. It’s funny how that changes over generations, too, because my mom and dad’s handwriting was so similar and yet so different from mine. Before we went to Disney World in 1980, my dad took out the brochure and planned which rides we would see on which days. He had everything planned out according to where it was located in the park. No spontaneity whatsoever!

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