On Me Writing Creatively:
A while ago, my brothers and I looked through a box of old schoolwork our parents had kept. Every story I wrote when I was in 3rd grade started with "Hi, I'm... and I'm from... and I like to... One day I was..." Not the most clever, but, hey, how else was I supposed to get people to know the main character? (Although, one did star a flying walrus from Mars, based on a stuffed animal I have. That was cool.) They were all short and silly, just like an 8-year-old's stories ought to be.
The teacher would give us a prompt -- a beginning sentence, an end sentence, a basic plot -- every couple of weeks and we'd write a story that was a page-ish long. As I think back on it, the writing probably had more to do with handwriting than anything else. I mean, what's a page of handwritten story on grade-school lined paper? 150 words, max? Yes, we were learning the parts of sentences and how to construct them, but I don't remember learning anything about storytelling.
After the stories were graded, the teacher would post them on the wall for the whole class to read. I never really enjoyed any of them. They weren't like the books the teacher read to us in class or that I read on my own. The stories were stilted. Lots of them were dreams. (I know I used the dream thing at least once because the first time I'd heard a story that ended with the hero waking up, I was blown away. By the end of that year, I hated characters waking up at the end of a story.) I never cared for the stories on the wall, mine included.
I liked writing them, though. It was fun. I can only remember one prompt, about being in a cave. I have no idea what I wrote. I was a mixed up little kid, in many ways. I could sometimes be morbid, but usually aimed at pleasant. I probably thought that it would be a check plus instead a just a check.
This was the first time I ever had a story I was writing get away from me.
As a class, we had just read The Castle in the Attic and the teacher wanted us to write a story about how we'd act and react to being two inches tall in the real world. The story was supposed to be simple, I got shrunk and still had to go to school where I'd find everyone else in the class had shrunk, too. The problem was that a lot of stuff could happen between waking up two inches tall on morning and then falling asleep that night because, of course, everything was back to normal the next morning. I went crazy. The stuff I wanted to write about kept growing. The minimum number of pages was probably supposed to be five or so, my first draft was over twenty pages; when I went back and rewrote it in cursive it got even longer, mostly because of the cursive, but also because I added more to the story.
I can't comment on how well the story was written, but that was the most fun I'd had writing, up to that point. I'd never had a story wrestle control away from me. It was like I was describing events as I witnessed them rather than making stuff up. It felt really good.
My English teacher had been a math teacher, mostly, for years and years. Yeah. Still, he'd do these cool writing exercises where he'd put on a piece of music, and he played all sorts of genres, and the class would write a story, or whatever, for however long the song was or until he had us stop. We did a couple a week.
I liked writing them. There was a freedom in being able to do anything I wanted, in being able to describe what I heard in the music. And I went everywhere. I wrote about going to an old-timey car show, although I'd never been to one. I wrote about an epic space battle. I wrote about kids sitting in a car and fighting while their mom was in the grocery store. I wrote about monsters rising from the deep to crush the cities of mankind. The music varied and so did my writing.
After he collected the stories, he'd read a few out loud to the class. Mine were never read which was okay. I hated it when my work was read to classes, especially when I was in that class. The problem was that on all but one writing, he'd give me Cs and Bs, with no explanation as to why. The girl who only wrote romance novel stuff always got As. My best friend, at the time, got As on his crappy stories about camping or riding dirt bikes. They also had comments on their work.
The only A I got was for a write a paragraph contest he made all his classes enter. He commented on that story. This is how it read: "A, Published." Out of the sixty, or so, students he taught English mine was the only paragraph to be published.
That'll show him! I figured. Now he'll have to pay attention to what I write.
School only lasted a month or so more, but I still only got Bs and Cs and no comments on my stories.
The assignment was to write a story at least so long. No other limits.
I wrote about a guy who, while walking through the woods, came across a field with a door standing in it. I described the forest and the field and the door. I had the guy open the door. I had the guy put his arm through the door. I had the guy close the door and leave as fast as he could.
To me, it was a story about fear.
Along with the grammatical errors (mostly run-on sentences) the comment on the last page was, "What's beyond the door? I want the character to go through the door. B-"
I wanted to scream at my teacher that the whole point was that the guy didn't go through the door. Of course, I didn't.
Years and years later, my brother told me that he enjoyed the story I wrote about the door in the field. He liked how the guy was too scared to go through. That made me very happy.
* * *
So, why am I writing this?
Well, I'm trying to work up courage and I think part of finding that courage is letting go of some of the dumbass stuff I've held on to over the years.
It's a process. Don't know if it's a good process, but it's what I'm working with, for now.