Why do I write?
It’s bizarre to think back to fourteen-year-old me sitting at my desk one November afternoon and picking up a pen with one thought: The world needs more books. Back then I had absolutely zero intentions of becoming a writer. I was bored and I wanted to read, but I had run out of books so I did the next best thing and wrote. My plan was to write five or so chapters just to get the writing bug out, but here I am over six years later, still writing.
I guess I liked writing back then, but just as a hobby. A distraction from my homework, something to do on the bus ride home or when I was bored in church. It wasn’t until the middle of Book 2, when I was sixteen, that I thought, “You know what? I love writing. I could actually do this for the rest of my life and never get bored.”
But no sane person chooses writing as a career path. The next year was spent trying to talk myself out of it, mentally debating the pros and cons. I didn’t know how writers made money. I didn’t even know if I was a good writer (I wasn’t, so it was probably for the best that I didn’t know). But one argument kept rising above all the logic: I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.
I was seventeen when I first considered doing a Creative Writing degree in university. The fear of what future I’d have with a Creative Writing degree made me take Film Studies, too. After the first semester it was clear which one I enjoyed and which was a chore, but I persevered. The second semester was the worst few months of my time here at university. I tried to blame it on other things: homesickness, overwork, lack of sleep. But by the end of my first year I accepted Film Studies was not what I had hoped it would be. It was making me unhappy, so I dropped it.
My transition into Creative Writing full-time was not a smooth one, and in the first semester of my second year I wondered whether I’d made the right decision. My grades were mostly Cs with some Bs, but it got better and in the second semester I got mostly Bs and some Cs. I made more friends, I did what made me happy, I experimented and had fun with my work because that’s what school is for.
Last semester was great. Everything fit together perfectly and I took on other responsibilities—a part-time job, the Writers’ Society. I kept myself busy and wrote in between. I got mostly As and a B and everything was great.
And now it’s ending. Just as I feel like I’ve figured things out and built myself a life I love, I’m about to graduate and all my friends are going away. I’m going away. But now I’m looking back at fourteen-year-old me and I realize while I was trying to figure everything out, I got better. My writing has improved.
I remember the first lines to the first draft of that first story:
Whoa. What’s that light?
“Wake up sleepyhead!” a singsong voice chimed.
“No.” I groaned, “Five more minutes.”
Yikes. Even the punctuation was terrible. But it got better over the years. When I was 15:
When I ran away from home, it was to avoid this.
In the forests by the Rocky Mountains, there’s a pit. Around it there’s a tall fence and at the top of the fence there’s barbed wire. In this pit there’s me.
*Sigh* I don’t know what to say to that, either. But at least my story didn’t start in a bed any more. When I was 16:
With a practiced hand, I lifted my covers quickly and quietly, trying not to wake Raelyn and Jinx, whom I shared the room with. The floors were cold, but rather than taking the time to put on my shoes, I decided to fly out the door and down the hall. I had memorized the guards’ schedules long ago, and I knew how best to avoid the two guards on duty this particular night.
Oops. Spoke too soon? When I was 17 I started from farther back in the narrative:
It was a cold, calm night in the forest. I sat against the trunk of a lodgepole pine and it’s needle-covered branches came down around me, shielding me from most of the falling snow. It was only when those branches shook and the snow they held began to fall on me that I realized the serenity of the forest was unnatural. My eyes fluttered open. They had finally arrived.
Better, but that was just half of the cliché-filled paragraph that opened my story. Finally I went to university and got busy. I still tried to work things out, and went off the beginning I came up with at 16. I thought it had the most potential. Aged 18:
Silence is one of my talents.
I slipped out of bed without making the slightest rustle of bedsheets. I felt the click of the door handle; I knew how to open it without disturbing the peace. I’d done this so many times before, I barely had to think about my actions as I flew, my feet inches off the floor. At the first corner, I stopped and watched for the first guard’s flashlight to sweep along the wall in front of me.
Things got busier and I finally put it down and didn’t look at it for some time. Then my Extended Creative Piece came along.
I tried a new story first, but it didn’t go anywhere. I fell back on my first story and all the drafts I had accumulated. I decided to work from the draft I wrote when I was sixteen since it was the one I liked best, despite the rudimentary writing. And so, aged 20:
Silence is one of my talents.
I made no noise as I left the room, but Peters and Birch were like bloodhounds, sniffing me out in the dark. They had stun guns, I had superpowers. Two of them, one of me. We were close to evenly matched every other night when we played this game of evasion.
It was a starting point. It was better than any of the other drafts so far. It could hold its own. But then one of my teachers started to ask about how things came to be. He wanted to know the backstory, and why things are how they are. I’ve had years to think about everything that happens in this world, so I had no trouble telling him about everything that happened before it. And my teacher was really interested in the backstory I had built. So interested, in fact, that he suggested I write it instead.
As you can see above, I have attempted writing the backstory before. I tried it usually in the form of a prologue, though I have written a couple of pages that took place in the past. Age 21:
The last crimson dregs of sunset crept up the pine trees and seeped into the mid-winter snow. The sight sent panic through me. It would be dark soon and I wasn’t there yet.
After all of that, and three years of university, I have a year ahead of me to choose a project to work on. Just one instead of ten at a time as I usually do (that’s not even an exaggeration. I counted. It’s sometimes more, sometimes less, but usually around ten projects at a time).
And you know what? I don’t think this is the one I’ll work on full-time. It’s come a long way in its six-and-a-half years, but no. It’s not the novel I want to publish first. I’ll come back to it every so often when the other one is giving me problems, but it’s just a stress-reliever. A familiar friend to help me out when I feel like putting the pen down.
When I finished the first draft of Book 1 at fifteen (Book 1 being the original. The prequel is what I call Book 0.), I did some research about publishing and stuff. As a new writer and a minor, I thought it would be better for me to have written all four books of the series before I showed it to anyone. I had to prove I wouldn’t quit in the middle of it. So far I haven’t. The incomplete first draft of Book 4 is next to me right now. It’s on chapter 19 and the last time I wrote in it was two weeks ago for four pages. When it was my only project I wrote every day, all the time, but even though that is no longer the case, I still haven’t quit.
My characters have come a long way. I’ve come a long way. But there’s still a long way to go. It is nice to know that after so many years spent writing, I’ve improved. I’ve grown, and oh, how I’ve grown.