I was recently asked if I remembered the place where I first wrote and what I felt.
The setting I remember well. My dad had scrounged up a heavy desk with sticking drawers in plain wood. Someone painted it white. Probably my mom. I drew green leaves twining all over the face of it, imagining ivy draped over the drawers and wrapped around the handles. Reality didn’t match imagination.
I’d been writing stories for some time by then and was about twelve when the desk showed up. The previous stories had been carefully written on a Big Chief pad. Those over sized, extra wide lined pages those of us from a certain generation learned cursive on. The paper wasn’t white for some reason, but an odd brownish beige. Those stories, though, were the equivalent of fan fiction. Adventures that I created starring myself and Huckleberry Finn. Or starring myself and Fess Parker as Davy Crockett.
At the white desk, however, I sat down with a pen instead of a pencil, and a stenographer pad. Green paper instead of beige. Narrow ruled. I remember the smell of the wood desk, the bedroom door shut firmly, and me ensconced in the corner. With blank paper and the whole world waiting.
To be honest though, I don’t remember the emotions as clearly. I know there was the strong need for secrecy. There was a sense of shame. There must have been a sense of wonder or joy. There must have been feelings of peace after writing. There must have been something that kept me coming back to the paper and pen but I can’t remember what that was.
It makes me wonder what instilled the belief that what I was doing was wrong, or a waste of time, or something that would be ridiculed if others found out. I didn’t come from a family that would have ridiculed me. My mother told me I would never make a living at writing, but she never told me not to.
So when did I lose that fear of exposure? When did it feel okay to admit I was a writer? In this I mean, okay to let people other than my closest friends know. Mariane, Sue, (over 40 years of friendship and counting) my sister Holly. Not until my 30’s when I confessed to my husband and his excitement and encouragement and belief allowed me to think, maybe I can call myself a writer. He convinced me I could write ‘for real’.
It’s weird to me now, thinking about that question the other night, to realize I only remember shame and secrecy. To me that shows the power of writing. That it courses through you in spite of everything.
What about you? Where did you first write, and what emotions do you remember? For those of you who don’t consider yourself writers, do you remember where you were when you first formed letters and realized you could create words? We’re all writers in one way or another.
9 thoughts on “Remember When?”
My page “My Very First Time…” (it’s on my header) describes when I first ‘got it’ about making up stories. I know I couldn’t spell then.
The next thing I remember was probably at about six, trying to recycle the movies starring the kid who played “Boy” to Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan. I think they were called “Bomba The Jungle Boy” or something like that, but I remember trying to change the name a little. Spelling was harder than I thought, so I didn’t write much until I’d memorized more vocabulary words.
The fact that so many of my stories in the past few months have been thinly veiled ones about my childhood, must mean that I memorized a lot of what I saw and experienced as a kid. I don’t know if I knew I would write them down someday or if it was just my writer’s mind doing what it had to do, but I remember so much, like it’s important and I’m supposed to.
I’d say if those memories are coming out now in your writing then they’re supposed to. And even beyond that, those kinds of deep memories seem to result in honest emotions in the writing, which us readers pick up on, and which resonate with us. I think that’s what keeps writing from being one-dimensional, something I have never found in your writing. And I remember Boy! That reminded me of some stories I wrote with the Rifleman’s son. Johnny? What was that kid’s name? I can picture him clearly though.
Thanks for the kind words, Lisa. 🙂
Johnny Crawford is his real name and Mark McCain was his character’s name on The Rifleman. I think it’s so cool that you chose his character for your early fan-fic phase! 🙂 Oh, how I love that show. I can still watch it
anytime it comes on. I always thought Lucas McCain was close to being the perfect man. I love Westerns.
Now I need to go see if Netflix has it. You’ve got me wanting to watch it again!
I’ve been thinking about that sense of shame attached to writing, too. For me, I think writing is about putting my secrets out there– and telling the truth– and also, being alone, wanting to be alone to hear myself think– all these things we are not supposed to do. We’re not supposed to tell the truth or want to be alone or listen to ourselves. Thank goodness that we get old enough not to care so much what others think! But still, always when I sit down to write, I feel a little residual sense of guilt.
Do we have shame built in genetically, that surfaces whenever we do something for ourselves? Or is it connected to creativity? I think you have a point. We’re not supposed to do things for ourselves, especially as women, and definitely not supposed to want, let alone enjoy, being by ourselves. It does ease with age though, for sure. I have become much more selfish. And happy.
I’ve been writing and drawing for longer than I can remember. There’s a lot about my early life that still springs easily to mind, but I think my current relationship with writing and drawing looms so large, I don’t recall what our previous relationships were like. And even now, it’s not always the same relationship, either. Sometimes writing and I get along fine, like good comrades, or it’s like that old buddy you’re delighted to run into at a party, and you link arms and spend the rest of the evening making the rounds together and laughing in the corner when there aren’t any more interesting-looking people you want to talk to. And sometimes writing is like that household chore I’ve been putting off for weeks; you couldn’t bribe me to touch it.
Strangely enough, for someone whose spelling is usually quite good, the only two memories I have of early writing involve spelling. In one case, I wanted to write “calm” but I couldn’t think how to spell it. I was writing on the brown cardboard backing of a notepad and I wrote “com” and I knew that wasn’t right. In the other case, my friend was telling me her address, and her street was called Dorene. I’d never heard the name before and I was trying to fit it into something I knew, so I wrote “Green.” She corrected me twice before finally taking the crayon and writing it herself. Then, when I saw it, the sound of the word and the way it was spelled clicked together in my brain.
I can see the artist in you when you talk about the memories of spelling. Because it seems to me like words are more than just words for you, that there is a strong visual connection, too. I could see you being the type to love the shape of a letter as much as the letter.
I do, in fact. 🙂 I used to want to be a font designer!