Although I realized at a young age that my brain worked very differently from others, it took me a surprisingly long time to figure out that I was a writer.
In hindsight I can see the clues.
In the 4th or 5th Grade I entered a poetry contest with the theme “Where The Sidewalk Ends.” (As an adult and fan of Shel Silverstein, I assume the contest had something to do with him, but at the time I only knew it as the theme for a contest my teacher talked about.) My entry didn’t win… anything… but my mom was so impressed with my poem that she took it to her college English professor who, according to my mom, was “very impressed” with my talent for my age. It was a VERY big deal for me that my mom and her teacher thought I was talented.
Still, I didn’t consider myself a writer, and other than jotting nonsense in my lock-and-key diary that anyone could have picked with a toothpick, I wasn’t writing anything more than the assignments given to me by my teachers.
Then in the 6th grade I wrote a few opinion articles for my school’s newspaper condemning stereotyping, cliques & bullies, and other social ills I was very concerned with.
I remember showing the work to my English teacher who was very encouraging, and I even worked up the nerve to actually submit one essay to the paper. Anonymously. Yes, they printed it.
In the 8th grade I hated my English teacher. She was evil, as far as my 8th grade self was concerned. I am not exaggerating when I say that 70% of her class was failing at the 3rd quarter. She played favorites and it showed in her grading. You were either an A+ student or an F student in her class. I didn’t do myself any favors when I decided that I would “show her” by not even bothering to turn in most of my assignments. Yeah. That really hurt her. (Note the heavy sarcasm.) The ironic thing was that I actually completed most of my assignments. I enjoyed reading and writing and was even writing short scary stories for fun and trying to get my friends to create a scary story club with me.
I had simply stopped turning my assignments in once I figured out my grades didn’t reflect my writing, but the fact that I wasn’t one of her favorites. The only F’s I ever got in my entire school career were in her class. Fortunately, my mother talked some sense into me in the final quarter and I squeaked out a D so I wouldn’t be held back a grade. Two years later I was scoring A’s and B’s in Honor’s English, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Although I enjoyed writing, I never thought of myself as a writer. Nor did I ever consider a career as a writer. Writing was just a hobby. That is, until one night in the summer after 9th grade when I woke up at about 4am in the morning with an idea for a novel in my head.
Although by then I was a pretty prolific poetry writer in my spare time and occasionally wrote what I would call “vignettes” for fun, I had never even considered writing a novel. It just didn’t occur to me. Yet that night, or rather morning, I woke up and without a moment’s hesitation, grabbed a pen and a notebook, and started writing out the bones of a plot, complete with fleshed out characters.
From that point on I wrote regularly. When my family went on a two week road trip a few days after inspiration struck, I took a couple legal pads and several pencils along for the ride.
While my sister clicked away on our green-screen Gameboys, I was hunched over my notepad scribbling. Most of the first chapters for that first novel were written out long-hand on the bumpy roads through the western half of the United States.
While I worked on that first novel, I also began writing other, shorter stories, with a higher frequency. My 9th grade English teacher, for whom I was later a Teacher’s Assistant, was the frequent first audience for most of my writing during my high school years. The man should be given a medal. It took me years to recognize those first writings for the rubbish they were, yet he was nothing but patient and encouraging.
In college I recognized the story for the disaster it was and threw out that entire first novel.
However, all that writing wasn’t a waste. Through it all, I was learning, growing, and becoming a better writer.
Can you relate to my story? What were your teachers/mentors like? Are you a writer? When did you know you were a writer? Please share your story with me. I love hearing from my readers! 🙂
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