I’ve talked before about how I “officially” became a writer around 13-14, but I think I was probably always destined to be a writer. Even as a child, it crept into my life. Of course, it made you a weirdo at that stage, wanting to do MORE schoolwork than everybody else, but I liked making up stories and I liked writing them down.
I didn’t go to kindergarten, because at that time (I’m old!) in the state I lived in, it wasn’t mandatory. I think you could have your child take a test, and if they were sufficiently advanced, they didn’t have to go. In any case, I started schooling with first grade. I don’t recall learning to read and write being particularly difficult for me, I just remember not liking those sheets where you had to form your letters correctly, largely because I’m left-handed and back then (again, I’m old!) it was still bizarrely frowned upon. Yes, if you’re too young to remember, or had no awareness of it because you’re a righty, they used to discourage kids from being left-handed! I was allowed to write with my left hand, but I had to use a grip on my pencil because I didn’t hold the pencil “correctly,” which is hard to do when you’re literally writing upside down. To this day, I still hold a pen strangely. At least I was ALLOWED to be left-handed. My grandmother was forced to become right-handed and would have her knuckles cracked by the teacher if she wrote with her left hand. This was really a thing.
In any case, I learned to read and write pretty fast, and I have a clear memory of writing an entire essay in first grade. In second grade, I won a contest for writing a story about a family living on a houseboat (the accompanying drawing was terrible though, I am NOT an artist), and I think my fate was set. I was always the kid who took writing assignments way too seriously. If we had to make up a story, the other kids would do the minimum while I’d be the one turning in a three-page story complete with plot and multiple characters. This continued into high school, too.
I took a creative writing class in high school, and one of our first projects was to write a story that hinged on us getting to know our classmates better. Everyone had to use their initials to create an adjective and profession (for example, someone with the initials AB could be an Awesome Baker). We then had to make up a brief story using 3 or 4 of the “characters.” I remember most people wrote a page or two, but oh not me. I wrote a six-page serious murder-mystery. To my horror, the teacher decided the best story would be read in front of the class, and guess whose it was? I remember not feeling proud so much as mortified that everyone would think I was kissing up to the teacher or trying to show off. However, I also remember my teacher saying “Ah, so you’re the one who’s actually going to be a writer,” and that has stuck with me to this day.
Growing up a writer is weird, especially if you’re not surrounded by creative types already (which I wasn’t). Still, my teacher was right. Here I am, actually being a writer!
What’s your “growing up writer” story? How and when did you figure it out for yourself, and how did it make you different from others?