Saturday, October 13, 2007

A brief history

...of me and writing.

I began this blog in January of 2006, but I had been writing for ages before that. Now, as this blog approaches its second birthday (wow, I never thought I would keep a blog going for so long), it occurs to me that I have never given an account of why I write--of what it means to me. Believe it or not, it's actually quite an interesting story.

I can still remember the first time it occurred to me to write a story. I was in the first grade, and I had a sheet of stationery that was decorated with a drawing of a fairy hovering over a strawberry patch. One day while I was at school, my imagination started brimming with ideas as I pictured a story centered around that simple drawing. So I wrote it, my first story. It was called "The Strawberry Princess," and its length was enough only to fill my one sheet of that stationery with my loopy first-grade penmanship. But I showed it to my teacher, and she seemed very impressed. So impressed, in fact, that when I got home from school that day my parents asked if they could read my story too. My teacher had called them to alert them of my budding talent.

Through elementary school I was always scribbling poetry about any topic imaginable, from friends to flowers to food. And frequently I would write outlandish stories about haunted lighthouses and talking animals and closet-monsters. Several times I was published in the local paper, and in third grade one of my poems was printed in The Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans. I loved having something I was good at--because I was never a great athlete or dancer or singer, but people recognized me as a good writer. In that was I was able to leave a lasting impression on people, and being noticed and remembered was always very important to me.

Once I started sixth grade, I began to feel dissatisfied with my place among my peers--and suddenly I began caring about shopping at the right stores, signing up for the right activities, sitting with the right people at lunch, and all sorts of junk that really had no value at all. I became a cheerleader (a terrible one, at that), I insisted on growing my bangs out, and I even neglected my homework from time to time just so I would not be the nerdy kid who always turned everything in on time and aced it. But none of those things seemed to change my image much among the other kids--I was still the one who got picked on at the school dances and the one who people would whisper about as soon as they thought I was out of earshot. I developed few close friendships, and sometimes I even hated my own friends because they were not "cool," and I could never be cool as long as I claimed their friendship. On top of repeated blows to my self-esteem, I also had to deal with death for the first time around the age of eleven--and it struck my family and even one of my own peers. I developed an intense anger towards people, and at the same time a fear of being alone.

As I withdrew from the world around me, my love of writing became a need for writing. I purchased a journal, and as an emulation of one of my role models, Anne Frank, I gave it a name. And for five or six years, life was about nothing except crying out to pen and paper, because there was not a person in the world whom I trusted... but I knew I could trust my journal, the only true friend I had. My poetry took a dark and lonesome turn; when I wrote stories, they were stories about tortured people doing maniacal things. But mostly I just wrote long discourses, trying to accurately convey my emotions onto paper so that for the rest of my life I could look back and remember how angry and hurt I was, and maybe even feel those things again if the world had so numbed me by then that I had forgotten how to feel.

Several years passed like this, and my need to write intensified and grew into an obsession. It was my ecstasy, my opium, the only way to ease the depression that gnawed away so ruthlessly at me. Then when I was fifteen, something changed. After months of attending church with one of my friends, I realized that there was someone who did love me, and whom I could trust as I had learned to trust no one--his name was Jesus, and I knew I needed him.

When Jesus walked the earth he told his followers that the cost of following him was great, and I soon learned the truth in this. For me, the cost was writing. I knew that my addiction to writing was unhealthy, that it had mastered me. Now I had a new master, and I knew I couldn't serve both. The day I packed my journal away and stowed it in the attic was a very sad day for me--I cried as I put up volume after volume of the best friend I had had for the past six years. But even as I cried, I felt right about it in my heart... I knew that a book could not be my best friend. I needed to learn how to live in the world around me.

During the last two years of high school and the first year or so of college, I wrote very little. I stopped keeping a journal of any kind, save a prayer journal. Occasionally I would write poems or short essays, but they didn't mean very much to me, and I eventually abandoned or misplaced them all. But I made friends, and I learned how to love life and to love myself. And I didn't miss writing, though in my heart I always knew I would come back to it someday. When the time was right.

Sophomore year of college, something else happened. I heard about a lecture that was to take place on campus--a lecture by one of our own professors, who was an accomplished author. He was to talk about his journey as a writer, and about overcoming struggles in his own life to finally publish his first novel. I knew that I had to go and hear him speak.

This was my time. As this writer spoke, I felt every ounce of myself start burning to write again--not in the needy, desperate way I had experienced before, but in such a way that it just felt right that I should be a writer again. I'm not sure if I slept at all that night after the lecture--I was full of ideas and excitement. I was strong and confident. I was a writer.

The next semester I had the opportunity to take a creative writing class. I enjoyed it but I struggled with it too, because it dared me to take my writing places I had never considered before. I dabbled in some microfiction; I tried my hand at science fiction; I explored the theme of dystopia; I warmed up to modern free-form poetry, which to that point I had always poo-pooed as not "real" poetry. That class proved to be very experimental for me, and an experience I appreciated... though ultimately my purpose lay elsewhere.

I soon found that purpose. My senior year, I had the chance to take another creative writing class--this time, taught by the same professor whose lecture had so inspired me two years earlier. In that class I discovered the nature writing genre, which I maintain still today is where my calling lies. As far as my own personal development, there can be no doubt that my nature writing class was the most rewarding, enriching, life-changing class I ever took. In fact, it was during that class that I began this blog.

Each of us has a special ability, I believe, which we are meant to share with the world. For years I've known that writing was mine, but it's been a long, strange journey. I am confident, though, that my history with writing has enabled me to appreciate these things all the more. I write not because I can, but because I must. There is something every person must say in their lives, and I have to say mine by putting pen to paper. What a privilege--what a joy.


jenny said...

great post Laura.

Jackie said...

Thanks for letting us into your life. Oh I wish I could write but it has always been a battle for me, never ever had a journal. Strange as I spent every moment from when I was 3 reading every book I could lay my hands on...the Library was a second home to me. My blog shows my lack of writing style it's the facts just the facts LOL.

I hope that you will do something with your talent and write that great novel or a book of poetry.