The Early Days

I started writing when I was around eight years old; it was the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade and I recall being very very bored. I found a composition book in my room and wrote a short prologue to a novel that, I’m sure, was not very good.

Regardless, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my older brother. He not only took the time to read that prologue during his summer vacation, but went so far as to plan more of the book with me, discuss characters, and devise plot twists. It would have been very easy for a soon-to-be high school freshman to brush off their little sister, but instead he indulged me.

The rest of my family did too. So I wrote and wrote and wrote.

That composition book was filled up by the end of the summer, and over the next few years my head was jammed full of more and more ideas. I wrangled a lot of my friends into my passion for writing too, when we employed dramatic play outside those usually became stories later. When my aunt, a YA and children’s author, came to visit at Thanksgiving I proudly showed her my first draft of the book written over the summer.

It was ten chapters and as I recall each chapter was about a paragraph long. However, I believe it managed to tell a pretty big story (one that was probably very reminiscent of Eragon, which I had read over the summer.) I intended for this to be a trilogy, and no those other two books were never written.

However, I rewrote that first book – One Stands – when I was in sixth grade. I dug up that draft this past summer and read it.

It’s bad.

But I got to thinking today about how integral that support I had from my brother was. But not even just my brother. I mentioned my aunt above, and she didn’t read that short nonsensical fantasy book and say “Grace, this is shit.” She gushed over it, she complimented it, read the whole thing out loud and fawned over it.

As I grew up, my mom read hundreds of first drafts and first chapters of stories. She never said “Grace, these all sound the same,” or “This is no good,” She complimented me on using the word jostled and on getting so much onto the page. I know I got constructive criticism, but for the most part I got overwhelming support. When I wrote full first drafts my uncle read them and provided detailed editing and feedback despite being a full-time teacher.

Even in ninth grade, when I was older and tougher and could have handled some more criticism, people never tore apart the novel I drafted. In fact my family seemed to enjoy it, flaws and all.

And now, I still send my drafts to my mother. My output is probably less, but I also write more carefully and more critically. I revise drafts before I send them to her.

The point is, I look back on all the opportunities that my friends and family members had to say “Grace, I don’t want to read more of your crappy writing.” And I’m somewhat astonished that I was never told that.

I don’t know how parents do it, but I’m more than impressed with them. As I pursue a degree in education my first semester in university, I continue to write.

And I consider myself a pretty good writer. I’m not exceptional, and there is always more that I can do to improve (practicing, for one – hence a weekly blog.) Still, when I look back on the early days of my writing I cringe a little bit. When I re-read that draft this summer, I found myself filled with dread at just how many people I had let read this god-awful story.

But still, I also remember the consistent support and praise from my loved ones. And I mean, what if I had gone down to the basement that summer and my brother had told me to leave him alone? What if that story had died then and there, never drafted, never distributed, never rewritten, without more and more ideas stemming and growing from it?

I wonder sometimes if writing would have found me no matter who I am or where I was born. Because the thought of not writing seems purely ludicrous to me. I think about the fact that under different circumstances I might never have had a pen placed in my hand, might never have even learned to read and write, or not had the means to develop a typing speed of 90 wpm. And even then, it is still incredible the depth and breadth of tireless support I received from my loved ones. It would have been easy for them to discourage my mediocre stories.

Mediocre stories that, bit by bit, and word by word, allow me to improve.

-Grace T, December 2017

Because of you / It’s never the same / Because of you / The darkness fades – Alive Again, Phillip Phillips

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