Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Story of Us: Writing in High School


I was a poet, and I didn't even know it...teehee

Okay, all terrible humor aside, my writing began before I really understood the concept of being a writer. It was just something I did. Something I enjoyed. It wasn't until adulthood I realized that it was also something that I was--something I am today.

From an early age, words were feelings and images. And I loved producing a world in my mind with words. This is one of my poems from middle school (that I totally pulled out of my Lisa Frank folder this afternoon. Yeah, you heard me. Lisa Frank.):

Whenever I produced something I found merit in, I'd go running to my parents to read it to them. Writing was a source of pride for me. There was beauty in creation, and it gave me a sense of absolute fulfillment.

In high school my focus shifted away from poetry and into novels. Well, a novel. Okay, three chapters of a novel. I remember not having an agenda the way I do today. There were no agents in my mind. No editors or publishing houses. It was just me and the story that played out in my head like a movie every time I closed my eyes. Here's a snippet from that first chapter:

It was the true voice of a small-town teen, trapped in days that blended together. It was me, and I loved putting pieces of myself down on paper in a permanent sort of way. 

Looking back at my earlier works, it's clear that I could take a hint or two from my former self. To open myself up to all possibilities without the restrictions I tend to put on my work these days. And to always remember the love of the process, not just the hope of a successful end result. 

Chris: In high school and before, I never had any intentions of becoming a writer. I enjoyed writing. I liked telling stories, but it wasn’t until my frustration with my film program drove me into the loving arms of English--and creative writing.

As a teen, I tended to go a bit overboard with the creative assignments though. They were the only ones that I would write well over the minimum. And for the most part, my teachers encouraged me, even the ones I didn’t get along with.

They did their best to inspire: I still remember my sophomore teacher, Mrs. B___, who put a Pyrex casserole dish full of water on an overhead projector, then proceeded to drop food coloring into it. She swirled the colors and was even more transfixed than any of her students. (She’d recently had knee surgery, and my fellow classmates and I figured she was still on some sweet pain meds.) But it did what it needed to. I wrote.

For that class, in particular, I even made some extra cash by writing poems and other assorted works for my fellow classmates. The writing never amounted to anything, and I’m sure that if I saw them now, I’d cringe--if not shrivel entirely. But I had fun; the cash was just a bonus.

One of my favorite assignments was a portfolio of creative works based on a notable figure--alive or dead. Being at a Christian school, I always liked to push the boundaries. I chose Vlad Tepes, a.k.a. the real Dracula. And much as I didn’t particularly care for my teacher, she didn’t mind that I wrote a monologue about Vlad’s guilt over sending a beloved to be tortured because of her infidelity. She didn’t mind reading a one-act play of Vlad sentencing a prisoner to impalement. She didn’t even mind the short story of Vlad walking through the field of bodies. Well, maybe she minded, but she still gave me an “A,” and one that didn’t even involve any extra notes of “We need to talk about this.” At the time, that was all the encouragement I needed to keep writing on occasion.

I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer, but hindsight is 20/20, and looking back over my life, every step of the way shaped me into who I am today, a writer.

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