Since this is an author blog, I thought it might be interesting to begin by talking about my own development as a writer. I’ll make this two posts: the first covering through the 9th grade, and the second from the 10th grade until now.
I clearly remember learning to read – it was during the second semester of my 1st grade year. I had grown up watching my mother read (she always seemed to be reading something, relaxing in her chair in the living room) and having my parents read various stories to me. Books were a part of the household, though perhaps not quite with the love that books now receive in my own family. I took to reading, and soon was spending most of my free time with a book in my hand. I would read in class at school; I would read in the afternoons after school; I would read with a flashlight in my bed at night; I would read the summer break away. I found everything, anything, that my head or my heart desired in the pages of a book.
”Books can truly change our lives: the lives of those who read them, the lives of those who write them. Readers and writers alike discover things they never knew about the world and about themselves” (Lloyd Alexander). That’s it – books changed my life, first those I read, and later the things I began to write.
The lion’s share of credit, what little there may be, for my own development as a writer goes to the authors who wrote so many books that drew me in and nurtured me in my love of reading. Reading good books led me to writing.
I knew in grade school that I wanted to write. Of course, I had no idea that some people wrote as a profession. I just knew that I wanted to create wonderful stories, to give the world the same kinds of books that the world had offered to me. Much later in life I became enamored of biography and autobiography, learning about the lives of those men and women who had so much influence over my own life. I tried my hand at a story here and there during my grade school years, but nothing ever really came together. My imagination was still developing, and had very little of its own to offer.
This changed, and my first writing was inspired by the same thing that inspires so much of the world’s great writing – love. Well, not real love, of course (we’re talking 7th grade here), but “like”…attraction to the opposite sex. My first pieces were poems written to various girlfriends. I would write a poem for an event: an anniversary, a birthday, Christmas, etc. A poem would accompany most of my gifts to the girls I liked. On some random day I might be inspired by something I saw or read and sit down and quickly pen a poem, delivered as a surprise to some girl.
All of my initial attempts at writing were poems, and all were written specifically to be read by another. I don’t know what I might say today, but at the time, the girls liked the poems and I thought they were pretty good. So that was the pattern in the 7th and 8th grade, and the only change in the 9th grade was a little bit of experimentation with poems that were written just for me. Writing for the sake of writing. Writing about happy things and painful things…especially beginning to explore in writing my own deeper feelings and struggles. I was slowly discovering my words, and not just what they could do for another, but what they could do for me.