My (So-Called) Writing Life: An Early Start

As a writer, the question I get asked the most is: When did you first start writing.

A: In the Womb (kidding).

Not to brag, but I wrote (and illustrated) my first picture book in kindergarten. It was about my family trip to our cabin in Georgia and went along the lines of “We hiked up a hill. We hiked down a hill. We hiked up a hill. We hiked down a hill. Then we went home. The end.”

It was positively brilliant.

So brilliant that the principal of my elementary school had me read it on the morning announcements (I also read it my kindergarten class).

My mom may or may not have helped me with my spelling. I just wish I still had that picture book.

That may have been the incident that sparked my storytelling passion. I was always a reader, but that was the time I started really making up my own stories.

In first grade I had a crush on a boy in my class. It was Christmas vacation and we were once again in Georgia. As I fell asleep one night I started to make up a story in my head about how when school started up again we would rush to each other on the playground and hold hands.

Did that actually happen? No, of course not.

But after that night, storytelling to myself was how I fell asleep at night. Up until college, I would lie in bed at night and think about whatever crush or boyfriend or future boyfriend I might have and write a scene in my head. Usually it was the part where they professed their love to me (I read a lot of my mom’s Harlequin romance novels growing up) or the moment we became a couple. Some nights I repeated the same scene, other nights I jumped ahead in time or changed heroes.

It’s corny I know. I never told anyone about this before. But this was my go to method for falling asleep for years. It worked better than counting sheep.

Then I stopped storytelling to myself as a means to fall asleep. Maybe it was because I was writing during the day. Or I met my future husband and no longer dreamed of falling in love with anyone else.  In reality I grew up and adult things and my to-do list took up that space in my brain as I fall asleep.  Occasionally I’ll think of a scene for whatever story I’m working on, but truthfully most of the time I’m thinking about if I’ll go for a swim in the morning or what I’ll need to pick up at the grocery store or if I remembered to give Mae West her seizure medicine.

But I’m grateful for those years of storytelling and daydreaming myself to sleep and I’ll forever encourage the young writers and readers I meet to keep at it. It’s never too early (or too late) to start telling stories, even if it is only to an audience of one.

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