My parents tell many tales of the stories I would tell when I was a little kid. Stories of super heroes fighting against villains, brave knights slaying the dragon to rescue the princess and sometimes super-heroes aiding the brave knight to defeat the evil wizard. Often, these stories involved whatever toys I was playing with at the time, so at times the evil wizard was the Cobra Commander figure, and my brave night was my teddy bear.
While I love these tales, and my parents tell them with obvious pride, I often wonder how unique it is. I mean, don’t all children tell stories with their toys as they play? I know my kid does. It’s part of playing with toys, isn’t it?
So, I don’t often really consider these tales part of my writing life. But, looking at them now, I realize that they are. Even if every kid in the world makes up stories for their toys as they play with them, the truth is, the difference between a writer and everyone else is, we never stopped telling stories when we stopped playing with the toys. (Okay, I never stopped playing, either, to be honest).
My first real memory of writing, though, was when I was in elementary school. Our teacher had given us an assignment that involved writing a short story of approximately 500 words (at least, I think that was it). Most of my classmates groaned. 500 words was a lot! That’s nearly two pages written out in nine year old script. But, me, I couldn’t keep my story within that confining limit.
My Dad remembers this event, and likes to say this: “The teacher just wanted a few paragraphs, but my poor kid had a whole novel in his head.”
And so I did, or at least a novel for a nine year old. I even remember what it was called. “A Shot in the Dark,” and it involved a murder. I was really stressed out over it, though, and didn’t know how to confine my story. So my mom told me to ask the teacher what to do. And so I did.
The teacher smiled at me. “Chris,” she said, “the 500 word limit was a minimum. If you want to write more, please, write more!”
I think now that she was just excited to have a kid that actually wanted to write. And write I did, until I had a full ten pages of story written out. I got an A+ for it.
I don’t really remember writing it, or even what I wrote. What I do remember is the excitement I had in putting words down on paper. I told what I felt was a complete story, though I couldn’t tell you know how much structure it had, weather there was a real plot, or if I built as much suspense as my nine year old brain thought I did. But it didn’t matter, because I had written it. I was so proud of those line, loose leaf, stapled pages with my scrawling printing in pencil. I had written a story, and no one could take that away from me.
Years later, I would experience that same feeling when I finished my first short story, and again when I completed my first novel. It’s a feeling I get almost every time I write sometime.
I wrote this. It’s mine, and I am proud of it. And there is nothing that you can do to take that away from me.
It’s a feeling I try to hold on to, each and every time I sit down to write.
Because I think that without this feeling, none of this would be worthwhile.