Tuesday, August 7, 2012
I think I've always been a story teller. I have vivid memories as a young child - probably no more than six - where I'd dream up interesting characters, put them in situations of conflict, and then find a way to solve their dilemmas so that everyone could live happily ever after. I've always loved to draw, so often these stories became sketches and I still have several old scrapbooks full of sketches that I saved.
I wrote my first play when I was in Grade Four. I had read a book called Ghosts Don't Eat Sausages and I remember loving it so much that I wanted to write a play about it. After I wrote the play I convinced several of my classmates that we should act it out at recess time. This was in the day when there were no photocopiers, so I had to rewrite everyone's parts by hand. Talk about dedication! I was the director and we proceeded to 'rehearse' for several recesses. I'm not sure what I thought would come of it, but our teacher happened to notice our activities and when she found out what we were doing, she scheduled a performance date and we presented the play to the entire school. When I think about it now, she must have had a lot of confidence in us, because I don't remember much interference on her part. The play got a whole page in the yearbook that year, with me listed as the playwright and director. I think that early 'success' gave me confidence as a writer.
Unfortunately, my confidence waned when I got to junior high. I wrote a long and elaborate story as an English assignment which, when I think about it now, was actually pretty amazing. It was about a teen girl who was going to visit her father in Europe, and unknown to her, she actually had royal blood lines and would soon be thrust upon the throne of a tiny kingdom. In retrospect, it was very much a "Princess Diaries' type of story (long before that movie ever came out) and I got an A. I did a ton of research for it and loved writing it, but then my teacher wanted me to read it to the class and I refused. It turned into an altercation and I got in trouble. I'm not sure why I was so adamant about NOT reading it to the class. I guess the mind (and hormones) of a thirteen year old are a mystery that doesn't always make sense.
Fortunately, I grew out of that phase and went on to do well at creative writing for the remainder of my school years. My Grade 12 English teacher suggested I go to a writing camp after graduation, but I didn't have the funds or the nerve at the time. (Some of that old fear was resurfacing. What if everyone else was better at writing than I was?) To some degree I suppose we writers still suffer from these same insecurities. I was very reluctant to let anyone read my early manuscripts and when I did finally let go, I was raked over the coals by rejection and criticism. However, I've since learned that both of these are actually your friends. You must embrace the 'tough critique' in order to become a better writer, and not everyone will love everything you've written. That's just a fact.
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