I cannot remember a time when I did not write to express the whirling spiral of thoughts in my brain, whether it was logical or emotional. I have written poems, short stories and even a manuscript (or two, possibly three). Some pieces have been written easily and some have felt like each word was being plucked out of my brain by the keyboard as I typed. Regardless of the ease at which it has come, I love to write. This is the story of my journey (so far) into writing, my very first love.
Throughout my days of primary education, I excelled in literature and writing. I was always picked to write examples on the board. A practice I hated because I was and still am an introverted extrovert. Basically, I like people, but am too nervous to talk to them. You can imagine how getting up in front of a class and writing on the board or reading aloud something I had written impacted me. (Cue the dream sequence of going to high school naked and everyone staring at you.) Even though I hated it, I kept going and my writing grew into a skill that my teacher at the time wanted to nurture.
Mrs. H (my teacher) asked me to help publish the student literary magazine my junior year of high school. She asked me if I wanted to publish anything in the magazine. My response was an emphatic, “NO”. At that time, I wrote because I loved it or for an assignment, not because I wanted it read by anyone and definitely not read by the public. My writing was, and to some extent still is, a very private part of my life. I had pages and pages written that no one had ever seen, and I liked it that way. One day while proofing the layout before publication, I saw a familiar piece of work. It was one of my poems, but I had not submitted it to the magazine. I went to my teacher and showed her thinking that one of my peers had taken it out of my notebook. Nope, she submitted it after I turned it in for class credit. This is the story of how and why my first experience with being published was a turning point for me as a writer.
My first published writing was a poem I had written for my gifted class assignment regarding a major event in our lives. At fifteen and sixteen years old, we really had not had that many experiences, so most people in our group struggled for a topic. Teenagers are not known for their decisive nature, or their positive decision making. Many students in the class struggled to find their topic and worried about writing about it.
I wrote about my first job interview. I could not understand why anyone thought it was that special. It took me under an hour, and I remember not having to think about what I was writing. I simply sat down and wrote. I, of course, edited the original version to fit the assignment form, but the free write of the first draft flowed out of the pen. It was very natural, and It was the first time in my life I had felt comfortable with what I was doing and was not the least bit nervous. The experience was in stark contrast to what I wrote about.
I was sixteen at the time and had a job in one form or another for two years by then doing things for my neighbors and even worked at a bakery getting paid under the table because I was under the legal age of working at the time. I had recently gone for my first real interview to get a position at a movie theater. I asked my mom to help me with what to wear and what I should and should not say at the interview. I remember being so nervous about going to the official job interview. I worried about meeting the managers and if they would like me. However, when I got into the room with them, I shook their hands, sat down and just talked to them. No shaky voice or stalling until the right answer came to me. We had a relaxed conversation. I now know they got more out of what we talked about than just a conversation with a teenager, but at the time it seemed effortless. When I came out of the interview, I became nervous again and wondered when I would hear from them about the position.
The poem I wrote for our class reflected the anxiety I felt before the interview, followed by jubilation when I found out that I was hired. The marks my teacher wrote commented on the visceral feeling she got when she read it. The tension was palpable as was the relief at the end. I feel lucky looking back that it took no time at all to come up with a topic and once I did the words just flowed and fit together for me. This assignment was when I knew that somehow, someway I would always be a writer. Before this, I had never felt anything come naturally to me the way writing did. I do have to say that I wish the inspiration came as easily now as it did when I was sixteen.
I know many writers have a love-hate relationship with inspiration and creativity. Writer’s block is a horrible feeling and I am so thankful that my first foray into writing avoided it. My career in writing may never have found its legs if I had faced a writing block during that assignment. Trying to imagine my life without writing is impossible to me now, so I am grateful every day that I was not discouraged at an early age.
I have since run into the devil casually referred to as writer’s block, and all the horrible stories are true. It is awful and disheartening. It feels like you may never write again. However, you will, just like I do. If you feel the block in your brain, find something else to do for a little while. Try taking a walk, or playing with your dog, or clean that one room in your house that you always avoid. These things can help you take your mind off of your writing just long enough to let the block lose power over your brain. Me personally, I like to think back to my first writing and remember even things that come naturally to you can feel stressful, but in the end it turns out alright. Just like any relationship, my writing and I have run into rocky times. We cry and yell. We do not speak to each other. We ignore each other. But in the end, we always come back to each other and try to create something magical. We are each other’s soulmates. True love at its finest.