Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Memories of Writing

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.


  1. I know exactly what you're saying. My daughter is 9 and an only child, which I think almost forces her to be more creative, and she has always come up with the most interesting stories when she plays. Now that she's older, she writes, too. It's incredible! I told my mom about it and she said, 'Sarah Kate, you used to do the same thing' and mailed me multiple notebooks of stories written by my 8 year old self. Somewhere along the way, I must have stopped writing and completely forgot I used to. I'm going to have to make extra sure that doesn't happen to my daughter. :o) Great post!

  2. Yeah, I really wish I had that original story. And just like you, I forgot I wrote like that until I was older. I am planning on making sure that my kid doesn't forget what it's like telling stories.