Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes
Today’s guest blogger is Isabella Marks. You can find her here. Enjoy!
The easy answer, the cliché, and the honest truth all rolled into one: because I have to.
Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, because I don’t HAVE to. I just want to so badly that NOT doing it would leave a serious hole in my life, not just in how I spend my time, but in how I see the world.
I first TOLD stories before I even started school, getting my toys, books, and clothes into an order, and then bringing them out one at a time to show the audience I was telling my story to.
I first wrote stories in the first grade. Our teacher would give us weekly writing assignments, and I loved it. I learned how to use the dictionary to look up words because I wanted to spell them right. I took my writing seriously, even if it was just about Bert and Ernie making macaroni and cheese for their friends.
As elementary school wore on I would live for those times when we would have creative writing assignments. In third grade our teacher would bring in piles of pictures taken from magazines, and make us choose one by reaching into a bag. We had no control over what we would get, and we HAD to write a story using the picture. Our whole class hated that bag. Except me. I loved it.
In middle school, I entered the Young Authors contest four years in a row, and in seventh grade gave up writing, and then knew I was going to do it forever, all within twenty four hours.
For my Young Authors submission that year I’d written a story about a girl whose best friend died when they were in first grade. In my story she visited her friend’s grave every year on the last day of summer to tell her about all the fun things she missed doing with her, and on the last day of school to tell her about the school year she missed.
My teacher wouldn’t let me submit it because it wasn’t ‘fun’.
That made me think something was wrong with me because I’d enjoyed writing it. I didn’t have ‘fun’ writing it. I wasn’t obsessed with death, and I certainly didn’t get pleasure out of the idea of a dead first grader.
But I enjoyed telling the story. I enjoyed the process of starting a story with a funeral, and then bringing my character through all the emotions she had through her years of growing up, all while helping her keep track of missing her friend.
The story made me think of my grandfather, who’d taken me shopping for crayons before I started kindergarten, and then wanted to hear every detail of my first day of school. I was going to tell him about my first day of school every year but he died before I got out of kindergarten.
I enjoyed telling a story that was about real feelings.
The girl who won that year told a story about spending the day at the mall.
I gave up writing that day, assuming I did it wrong and didn’t understand what it was supposed to be about.
The next day I put Cemetery Conversations into one of my trapper keepers (I had three that I bought at a garage sale, and used them to store all my stories, poems, journals, and ideas), and lay down on my bed to write a letter to myself so I wouldn’t forget WHY I was giving up writing.
In the process of writing that letter I realized that I wrote for myself, and not for anyone else.
I wrote because I had things I wanted to say. And the written word allowed me to say them the way I wanted to.
I could denounce evil. I could celebrate justice. I could use words to love what was worth loving, and to explain why some things weren’t worth admiring.
I began to journal constantly. I began to make myself write, even when the words wouldn’t come I’d write about breakfast, or what I’d seen on TV, or what I wanted my mom to understand about my life.
I’d write stories on the school bus. In study hall. On my bed. With a flashlight at night. On the porch. Sometimes instead of doing homework. And once at a slumber party when everyone else there made fun of me for not knowing how to fit in, I sat in the living room by myself and wrote a story where I did fit in.
And that is why I write.
I have control. In real life, most of us accept that we can’t control everything. Alone with my notebook and pen, or the old typewriter I had in high school, or the computer I bought in college, or the laptop I have now (even though I still carry a notebook everywhere, because you never know when an idea will strike), I have control over the worlds I create, and the characters I bring to life.
I can say the things I can’t say otherwise.
I can even tell my grandfather about my day.