A Journey of Writing

Whenever I think of writing, I think of teenagers or middle schoolers. Perhaps this is because that is around the time I fell in love with writing. Perhaps it’s because most protagonists I’ve seen in books are teenagers. I was ten years old, in fifth grade and writing poems in my notebook where notes should have been. The same thing continued to happen until eighth grade when I was introduced to short story writing. Mr. Helm, my eighth grade English teacher, assigned a short story. I wrote a short story called “The Power of the Wings.” The class was told to write mythology and the only rules were there had to be a hero and a villain. The rest could be constructed however you desired, and I desired fairies that could travel between realms. There were only two realms in my story, Earth, where humans lived, and June Empire, where fairies lived. June Empire was very similar to Earth except it had the added element of magic which was present in everything. Of course, the main protagonist was a teenager just entering high school, as most of my main characters today are as well, though I couldn’t tell you why. I’ve just always been drawn to characters of self-discovery and journey.  

My mom then  introduced me to the magazine “Teen Ink,” a magazine which published only teenagers’ poetry, short stories and photography. I started reading some of it and became interested. I had so many poems in my notebooks and so many short story ideas that I thought maybe I should submit something. But I was too nervous for a while. What if no one likes my poem? What if they don’t like what I have to say? What if… what if… what if? My mom finally convinced me and I started submitting to the magazine. I started with one poem, then another, then another, then another until had about five submitted in one day! I became anxious. Once again those thoughts. Is it good enough for Teen Ink? Would it be perfect? I know it was just a teen magazine, mostly online, and that getting my poems on the website really would never impact my future—but I still wondered. Will my poems be published? Will my work be seen by my peers? Did I write well enough to make it here on this platform? Can I do this? Is it good enough for Teen Ink? Would it be perfect? But my poems were good enough. All the poems I submitted from 14 to 17 were put up online and one even made it into their print magazine. This proved to me I could get published. But it also got me thinking, what is being published? 

In ninth grade, once again Mr. Helm was my English teacher, and once again he assigned us a short story. I honestly forgot what that one was about, but I know I did well on it. But knowing I did well on the short story the previous year did nothing to calm my nerves. Once again my story had a young woman at the center and was set in a fantasy realm. I remember just having watched the movie “The Never Ending Story” and being inspired by it. I seem to be inspired by odd things, that maybe aren’t so odd, weird pieces of art, any type of fantasy novels or poetry filled with humor with no depth to it you can overtly see. 

I began writing a story inspired by “The Never Ending Story,” hating it, scraping the whole idea and restarting. I knew it was going to be harder than eighth grade’s short story to write this one. I didn’t want to do fairies again, but I still wanted fantasy. I couldn’t copy another, that wouldn’t have been original. I was determined to find the right story and wait until it came. So I waited and waited for what felt like days on end but in reality was probably one whole day, maybe less, for inspiration to strike. And then it did! Once it did, my fingers started itching to type or to hold a pen and notebook and just write. I had to get the story out! And finally, I did. But the same questions plagued me, the same what-ifs, the same doubts. I had built my characters using the character sheet, I had built my plot outline, and I had built each scene into my story how I saw fit. My villain and heroine were crafted to perfection after weeks of planning everything out. But was it good enough for Mr. Helm? Would it be perfect? Looking back, it was almost like waiting to hear back from a publisher about whether or not they will publish your book. Will the publishing company accept it? Is my book good enough? Is it well written? Is it done to the best of my abilities? Is it good enough for Mr. Helm? Would it be perfect? Once again, my story was good enough. I don’t remember the grade, only that it was good. By now I had been published in online magazine Teen Ink and had written two what I thought were good stories, and been prophesied over that I would write books that would help people. It’s safe to say that by now, I wanted to be an author of fantasy novels. I wanted to be the next J.K. Rowling.

However, there already was a J.K. Rowling and I wasn’t her. She had written an incredible story and become a world phenomenon. “Harry Potter” was a huge success and everyone would come to know his name. I thought maybe I could next J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis writing the next great Christian fiction and fantasy novels, but  I realized that would be impossible. There was no way I could do it, because I wasn’t them. They had written some of my favorite novels “Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia,” but those stories were not mine. I had to create my own stories. 

I was 16, and while I wasn’t creating worlds yet I was making my voice heard. I wrote down my thoughts and handed them to my church’s newsletter. Once again I was published, but it was an article rather than a short story. It felt strange the first time, I slowly slipped into this process of writing which is different from the creative writing process. In one you know all the details, in the other you know nothing. I began wondering, could I write an article? Were the articles good enough? But I stopped myself. It wouldn't do me any good to worry while I waited. Once again, the articles were good enough, they were out in my church's newsletter and I had begun branching out to the topical writing.

Throughout high school and college, I started developing magic systems, worlds, characters and landscapes. It was incredible. Creating a masterpiece of words that had bled ink from my soul was wondrous. There were magic and Tidekin and wonder and mystery and clans and different realms and Faeries and dancing and waterfalls and secrets and iron bands and, and, and, it flowed from my mind, into my heart, through my arms, into my hand and poured from my pen. It was a sense of rejuvenation! It was like a place and friends you had never seen but knew extremely well. I felt my writer-self breaking free from its prison. 

My biggest tip to those who want to write, is get support backing you up as your writer self breaks free. Even if it’s only some articles to your church’s newsletter. Even if it’s only a collection of your poems and stories given to family for Christmas. Even if it’s only asking friends to look over your work to catch your mistakes and anything that doesn’t flow well. Make sure you’re always writing to be a writer. Even if your first story was in eighth grade. Even if you haven’t written in a few years. Even if your writing never sees the light of the day. Even if you aren’t sure where the story is going. Even if you are scared to create a world from nothing. You’ll know someone is backing you up.