I was a chatty, cheerful kid who loved words – speaking them, reading them, and even writing them.
When I was in first grade, I joined the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) Program. It was something that happened only because of a bit of childhood fraud on my part.
On my way home from school in kindergarten, the teacher had given me a note to take home to my parents. I was not much of a reader yet, but I scanned the words, pretending to understand it, and the teacher noticed.
A few weeks later, I was being tested for my advanced intelligence with one of those “this-is-to-this as that-is-to-that” tests.
My deception aside, I must have actually been fairly smart, because I passed the test, which led to me being bussed halfway across Tucson to attend the district’s only first grade GATE class.
I would sit in the front seat to talk with the bus driver on the way to and from school. I think I’ve always felt like I had more in common with folks older than myself than I do with my peers. and yes, it was one of those “short busses,” so go ahead and make fun of me. LOL..
I say I was a chatty kid because one day, on the bus ride home, the bus driver offered to pay me $5 if I could manage the entire ride the next morning without saying a word.
I took him up on the challenge, and brought a pile of Charlie Brown books with me to read. The ride passed in silence, to the driver’s evident content – and I got my $5. Unfortunately my teacher saw him give it to me and took it away, handing it back to the driver and telling him it wasn’t appropriate for an adult to be giving money to a first grader.
I was heartbroken. After all, I’d worked hard for that $5. Then when I got home, there was an envelope in our mailbox with $5 and a note – “He earned it.”
Side note: I was also once paid $100 not to whistle Christmas songs for a week – in July. But that’s a story for another day.
In third grade, I tackled The Lord of the Rings, and I still remember being emotionally ripped in half at the death of Boromir.
When I was in fifth grade, I penned a blatant Jetsons rip-off (with full color illustrations) for a University of Arizona contest. I won, and a copy of it was placed in the university library. It might still be there somewhere gathering dust, for all I know.
I started my first novel in Junior High, and drew hundreds of maps of my imaginary world. I still have them in binders to this day.
When I was in High School, I started my second novel. Neither one of these will ever see the light of day, but they were a legitimate part of the process of becoming a writer. And though I wouldn’t become a published sci-fi author until I was in my forties, I’ve been a writer all my life. Words are my medium of choice for creative expression.
Sometimes, writing is easy. The words just flow, and you follow them merrily as they carry you through the story and your imaginary world.
Sometimes, writing is really hard, as words betray you, leaving you hanging from a partially finished plot with no idea where to take things next.
The writer’s life isn’t easy these days, either.
Once upon a time, it was much simpler – you wrote a story, you sent it off, and you hoped someone wanted to publish it. Maybe you’d get lucky and it would lead to a career, with a publisher who would encourage you and guide you into bestsellerdom.
Nowadays, it’s much easier to get published. With the tools at my disposal, I can have a book up for sale around the world in less than a day. And yet it’s so much harder too.
There are hundreds of thousands or even millions of other writers all vying for their time spot in the spotlight. The industry no longer nurtures new writers, but instead seems to be looking only for the author that’s most like the last bestselling phenomenon, only a little different. Bring me Game of Thrones. With dolphins.
And hybrid and self-published authors have to be masters of writing, cover design, marketing, social media and much more to even have a shot at selling our works, all of which takes time, energy and focus.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember the simple pleasure of writing.
And yet, there are still moments of unbridled joy. They come to me sometimes when I sit in our dark kitchen at 5:30 in the morning with my headphones on, close my eyes, and immerse myself in my imaginary worlds. Those moments when the words still flow and the story snaps and flutters under my touch like a living thing.
Sometimes I feel guilty that I take time away from work for writing, though it’s really just a fraction of my day. But those lovely moments of connection with my craft make it all feel worthwhile.
And besides, I’ve earned it. Right?
To my writer friends, when did you first fall in love with words?