There I stood, in front of the dining room table, with printouts of my very first story in my hands as I readied myself before my family at a holiday dinner. We’d always been a bit traditional, so we had a meal at every Christmas and Thanksgiving. We weren’t overly so, though, so I got to present my newest creation when it came time to eat.
My pride leaked through in my nervous smile, and my determination to one day become an author pumped through my veins. It seemed ingrained in my circuitry after a while. I knew what I wanted, but I wasn’t too keen on practicing discipline.
My story copied a lot of cliché tropes and used them in boring ways, but it was also innovative in ways only a child’s writing can be. What it had was imagination–that’s the long and the short of it. It had entrepreneurial spirit, livened up with a dash of December log fire warmth and seasonal cheer.
My family didn’t seem to pay much attention to it as I read, but I know my mom remains ever pleased with having helped me type it up and look for images on the less-advanced Google to serve as illustrations for my first foray into authorship.
Of course, you may wonder how I feel about it now. I still have the story on my hard drive, though it’s been years since I last read through it and tried to understand my frame of mind from when I composed it together with my parent. But from what I remember (and this will be the topic of discussion today), I felt a deep sense of pleasure and joy at going on the journey I had invented for my characters, even if it was wild, wacky, zany, altogether nonsensical and fit for no audience but me.
As I grew, I forgot about this initial love of writing, or, at least, put it to the back of my mind for no other reason than I had to shift my focus to different subjects in school, major events occurring–you know, life happening. But when I finally fell back into writing, the insatiable desire to know more about the craft and get better, better, better came back with a vengeance. I could barely contain it in my small body.
But with the force of a gale returned the unquenchable need to feel like I was inside my story, like I was living in another world far, far away, and turning into new people and creatures big and small. It may have been immature escapism then, but as I’ve matured it’s grown into a practice of empathy and an exercise of creativity I hadn’t been able to rend out of my mind and emotional sphere before that point.
Seeing the words on a word processing program is satisfying because it gives shape to the gunk inside my mind that had previously been floating around only in amorphous, slippery, sometimes grimy and gooey soup. However, often the written word, as beautiful as it is, is not as beautiful as the reality I had dreamed up. I imagine many writers, whether they write for their private audience of one or are a million-dollar-making cash cow, feel similarly.
Imagination, like I had first experienced and utilized to great effect in my first writing attempt, is an important ingredient to life success. Writing, even though many people say that it’s not a practical career or too personal to matter, is an art that’s meant to be shared, and can only be fully realized with heart and a sprinkle of childlike wonder for what remains hidden behind the invisible.
I hope I never lose my appetite for creation, because far more than anything traditionally nourishing, writing keeps my hope for humanity and my own sanity alive.
Featured image by Rod Long.