Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a writer.
My house was awash in words, we read voraciously, we wrote as exploration. Before the age of ten, I declared I would grow up to be a writer [and a teacher]. And here I stand, both.
I teach kids now who I can easily see being writers when they grow up, they’re good with words, they like to express ideas and thoughts, and I know some of them will get there. I see my job as an opportunity to guide them, to tell them it’s possible, and to enjoy the ride with them.
I often think this means I have to push them into a specific writing path, or push them to finish, or push them at all. I think that’s wrong. Or, probably more accurately described as misguided.
My job is to be there with them, to make it enjoyable.
I started thinking about my own childhood history with writing. What did I write? How often? About what? Why?
I remember writing some short stories, and they were always wet trash. But I enjoyed the challenge. I wouldn’t always finish them, which I constantly took as a sign of failure – and here I sit upon a throne of failed pitches, and unfinished documents, and I see the fallacy of that idea. All writing is practice for the one that finally makes it through. Everything builds up to it.
I thought I’d be a novelist, so I tackled prose fiction. But I also had a hankering to be a journalist, so I wrote weird articles. I was a massive basketball fan, so I’d watch games and take notes so I could write newspaper articles after the game. I don’t think I ever finished one of those articles, but just aiming to do it was a clear sign as to where my head was at. I’d type up fake basketball game statistics, like you’d find in Basketball Digest.
I also kept a book where I’d write reviews of movies I’d watch. They’d get a rating, a short review, and I don’t even know if I ever considered an audience for this stuff. Man, I was decades ahead of Letterboxd and the like.
I bounced in and out of words, I kept notepads and notebooks of ideas and thoughts and reviews and stories, and it was all building my skill set.
I now see kids who write all kinds of things outside of school; stories, journals, reports. Inside school we write; stories, newspapers, websites, podcast scripts, we turn comic pages into narratives, and make poems out of amazing titles.
I want to make writing fun. I had a blast writing my stupid basketball articles and movie reviews. I liked writing a newspaper front page with a movie review, and a fake article. I thought my short stories were ace, right up until the point where I knew they weren’t and I walked away.
I wonder what other people wrote when they were kids. I wonder what we still let ourselves write now as adults.
The exploration of the world through words is a hell of a thing. We should all do it from time to time.