I believe that my passion for writing began when I was in the fourth grade.
No, wait, it was second grade.
Yes, it was first grade,
I recall writing my own story for the very first time in first grade. It was a Harry Potter fanfiction. It was typed on the computer in yellow font. It was a masterpiece. That story is gone, lost on some old hard drive (or perhaps I never even saved it. I was, after all, six). I do remember the plot, however.
[Let me set the scene by saying that I imagined Harry and Ron are in a dark corridor, with eerie lighting.]
Harry and Ron were walking when Harry asked, “Where’s Hermione?” and Ron said, “I don’t know.” Then, a voice from behind them said, “I’m here!” But Harry and Ron realized that it was not Hermione, but actually Voldemort.
Intense. Chilling. Suspenseful. Romantic. Still slightly more eloquent than what I remember writing so long ago.
I also wrote a Harry Potter fanfiction in second grade, titled “Harry Potter and the Terrible Thing,” or something along those lines. That story was written in a Harry Potter notebook, and it is currently in the possession of my friend Erin (who laughed until she cried when she read it). I can’t remember the plot of that story, only that Snape was a giant jerk.
In fourth grade, I wrote a story about children who could turn into animals. It was most definitely NOT a copy of the Animorphs series. It was different. It was original. It may or may not have been exactly similar. It wasn’t. (It was).
From then on, I remember writing constantly. I loved notebooks. At the store, I would beg my mother for spiral notebooks. My love for writing was so apparent that my aunt actually purchased a very nice leather-bound journal for me when I was in the sixth grade. I don’t think I ever actually filled a notebook. I was young and impatient. I would grab a notebook and begin to write, whether it was a story, or a journal, or a poem. Then, I would lose interest in that topic and gain new interest in another, be it ANOTHER story or ANOTHER journal or ANOTHER poem. As a child, I believed that each new work deserved its own new notebook. These new ideas were too precious to sit them right next to old, outdated ideas.
I made two friends in middle school (of the female variety) who also loved to write. We had fantastic stories. “Fantastic,” in this sense, means “fantastic to read and laugh and then stash under your bed and never speak of them again.” We had a novel that was rather intense, titled The Curse of Alania. That novel never reached fruition, though we tried (and tried and tried and tried again) to finish it. The COA became a story of our own lives, where characters would develop as we knew them in real life. This sounds very sophisticated, but it was mostly framed around whoever those two girls happened to be dating at the time. It was still a precious story (precious to me, anyways) that I like to think back on.
Unlike the girls, I had a different approach to my love life. Why write it down in fiction, I wondered, when I could simply write the truth?
Thus began the hilarious segment of my life that I will title: “Josh’s Journals.”
Let us start with the first one that I can find, written in that very nice leather-bound notebook that I mentioned earlier.
Ah, yes. Sixth grade Joshua had no clue how to follow lines or indent paragraphs. He was also very dramatic.
I guess you could say that nothing has changed.
After this exciting beginning, I went on to lament that I thought some girl was beautiful, but she never seemed to have time for me. My life was one of woe and misery. I also drew a very nice (utterly terrible) portrait of her. It’s all very sweet.
But, that was the only entry. Let’s move on. Don’t worry, that notebook comes back into the playing field very soon.
In seventh grade, I kept journals with those two friends I mentioned earlier. We would write to each other, whether it was a story, an entry about our lives, or just simple drawings. Sometimes it was in code. Of course, being the only boy in this triangle, I was never privileged enough to be taught the code.
PomPom and Bubbles can kiss my ass.
Bubbles (her codename) has kept the majority of these journals, but I am lucky enough to have one in my possession. Reading through it, I wonder why those two girls even spoke to me. I also wonder if I even knew how to hold a pencil. Or speak coherently. I was a late bloomer, I guess. I can’t be upset because I was obnoxious as an eleven year old.
We were all obnoxious at one point. Never forget that.
I kept one private journal that year. If I recall, I felt guilty for never using the leather-bound journal more than once. It was rare for me, but I did it. I returned to that journal.
I made sure to let the non-existent reader know that I was a seventh grader now, and that sixth-grade me was so uncool. I also let them know that, no, I was not over the girl that I wrote about a year ago. But, I was currently on my fourth girlfriend. The last two just hadn’t felt right and the first one was great but now I was really happy with my current girlfriend.
I also wrote about baseball, and the school play, and a party, but you don’t care about that. You want the romance.
Believe it or not, twelve-year old me had some excellent views on the world. He (I) wrote this poem:
How do you tell someone that you love them
when you’re not supposed to?
How do you tell someone you need them
without everyone knowing?
How do you choose between two
when they are equal?
How do you love two people
without breaking one’s heart?
That journal fizzled out somewhere in the fall of eighth grade. It was never written in again (as is my style). I picked up another notebook (new!) and started writing again in the spring on 2009.
Somehow, between Fall 2008 and Spring 2009, I underwent a transformation. I’m not sure how this is possible. I don’t remember changing at all. Perhaps this was when I finally got punched by puberty.
Suddenly, my entries were long and verbose. They weren’t all about who I was dating and who I wasn’t. Instead, they dealt with everything I was upset about, worried about, happy about, sad about, and apathetic about. Though they’re rather dull to read, they’re well-formatted and sincere.
That notebook died somewhere in March 2009. It was brief and relatively boring, but important in the grand scheme of things.
I started another journal in my freshman year of high school (or perhaps in the summer before). I don’t own this journal. It was written specifically for a friend. She has assured me that it is entirely about cross country, the one sport I played in high school (until I got a stress fracture. Running career ended). She also says that it is not worth reading.
It seems that, as I grew older, my writing became more vague. I began another journal in my sophomore year of high school in which I continually drabble about small insecurities and meaningless events.
It was at this age that I began to consider some of secrets too precious to put on paper. After all, writing a secret down is the most dangerous thing you can do with it. It seems that I purposely avoided much of my life, simply because I didn’t want to share it with anyone.
There are a few meaningful quotes that I could include, such as:
- “Rebel spirit, choked before it gets a chance to breathe.”
- “Sparky likes to eat shit.”
- “What’s beyond life? What’s after death? Why is my life written in stone?”
- “I am so weird.”
- “I like sleep… sleep is good.”
This was the last journal that I ever kept. So ends “Josh’s Journals.”
Don’t fret, my friend. The story is not over.
Journals are wonderful for memories. How else would I remember the exact date that I got braces, or the time that I had the flu but still competed in a state math competition? How else would I remember that my life in middle school revolved around who my girlfriend was? How else would I remember that I was a complete nut between the ages of ten and twelve? I wouldn’t.
However, I did not only keep journals. Sometimes, I would write something down, simply to write it. Writing has always been cathartic. It is relaxing. Writing has always been a release valve in the large tank filled with my teenage emotion. It is in these writings where you will see Josh for who he truly was. These pieces of paper are the ones that I often cannot read without becoming sentimental.
I found a piece of paper in my drawer that I do not recall writing. It reads:
“If I write it, it becomes true. Therefore, as much as I wish to write my feelings, I cannot.
How do I know they are real? Anything could be going on inside me. It’s all so confusing. As much as I think I know what is right and wrong, I do not know anything.
What if I’m fighting the inevitable? What if I am protesting the very thing that I cannot beat, cannot shake, cannot outdo?
The humor of it all sickens me. I am always presented with two grounds. No middle. I wish I knew. Knew what others thought. Knew what I thought. I wish I just knew.
But I don’t. There are two different puppeteers and two strings. Which do I choose? Either way, I will upset somebody, be that someone I love or myself.
If I give it time, one puppeteer will tire of the game. One will accidentally break his strings. I’m afraid that I know which one will quit first. This is what scares me the most.
I find small writings like this all of the time. I had many saved on an old laptop that was thrown away. There are some on a jump drive in my drawer. There are some hidden around my room. I find some of them in the oddest places.
Reading those snaps me back. They bring me back to the time when I was fifteen and scared of the world. They bring me back to tumultuous nights and mixed up feelings. They remind of exactly how I felt when I was fifteen. They remind that I don’t want to go back.
When we write, we capture ourselves. No matter how brief, no matter how superfluous, the words we put on a page are pieces of our body. They are keys to our past. My writing captures me at exactly that moment. It preserves that moment forever.
I laugh at my old stories. I find my annoying middle school self to be absolutely hilarious. I read my old thoughts and send messages to friends, asking “Do you remember this? Did you know that this happened?”
Yet, whenever I read those pages where I decided to hold nothing back, and let my words pour like blood from my heart, I stop. Suddenly, I am there again. Suddenly the pen is in my hand and I remember exactly how I felt at that very moment.
I never wrote so that I could read it years down the road. I never wrote so that others would read it. I wrote for myself, at that very moment. I wrote because there was nothing else I could do with the words. I wrote because I could not keep it inside of me, yet I could not put it anywhere else.
My old writing probably means nothing to you. Maybe you’ll find it humorous, or maybe it’ll make you sad. Maybe you’ll feel nothing at all. That is fine. Those words are not meant for you.
Those words are for me. They are mine. They are the only link that I have to myself. Those words preserve my life better than any memory. That is why I wrote them.
I have never been more proud of something.
I’d like to finish this post with something that I found a few weeks ago. Over the summer, I wanted to write more, but I couldn’t find the right words. I wrote the following on July 17th, 2013. It is incredible to look back at myself six months ago.
Perhaps it isn’t the idea that is stopping me. My head happens to be swarming with ideas, much like a pond can be swarming with fish and critters, all of which slither past each other, become entangled, writhe for a while, and sometimes break free. I feel that some of these critters hide in the murk, hoping to never glisten in the open (which may be a good thing, for I do not doubt the existence of bad ideas). I also feel that quite a few leap out of the water and make a splash, wanting to be seen, to be noticed. I worry that someday I may not have ideas like this anymore. I see that, as some people age, they lose most of their imaginative properties. It’s possible that their pond has dried up. Or, maybe the vast number of critters, all kept and never released, used up all of the dissolved oxygen. Maybe their pond cannot support life anymore. I fear this will happen to me.
So I am determined to write. However, if I was determined by any sort of measurable quantity, I would have written something by now. I say that I am determined because I feel that I want to write, and I never rid myself of the desire. The problem is that, though I often want to write, I do not. Why is that? Why can’t I put pen to paper or my fingers to a keyboard? I have the ability to write, for when I am required to do so in school, I write, as I consider it, very well. I believe that my teachers think I write well, seeing as I get high grades on my essays and journals. But does an English course really reflect one’s ability to write, or one’s ability to complete an assignment? I may never know. My teachers may know, but if they do, it is of no use to me now, since I may never see them again.
The reason, I believe, why I do not write is that I do not write. This sounds odd, and may be circular reasoning, but allow me to explain. I have often heard that writing takes practice. It is true that there are very few young authors (excluding Christopher Paolini, the damn prodigy). I have always been the type of person who never thinks about what I may do in the future, but what I am doing now. Each day is “the day,” to have it colloquially put. I waste every day I do not do something. My childhood is almost over, and though I am still younger than a lot of actors at the beginning of their career, I will never be a childhood actor. Abigail Breslin alreadys kicks my butt. I’ll never be a young and famous musician. In fact, if things stay the same, I will probably never be a musician. As much as I find his personality and actions (and song lyrics) distasteful, Justin Bieber wins. I never see a long-term view, so I never believe that I have more time to accomplish something. I want it now. I want my dreams to become fulfilled right in front of me. Rather than trudge through life, I want to leap, and never come back down. And so, I always believe I am a failure because I have not leapt yet. I am not an author yet. I am unsuccessful because I have not done anything yet, and there is hardly any more time to do it. I am discouraged. In my discouragement, I do not write. So you see, because I do not write, I do not write. It is hard to begin something wen you want it to have already begun.
Why haven’t I begun yet? I do not know. I often wonder if it is because I do not know who I am, and if writers write about themselves and what they know, then how can I write about what I do not know? I feel as though my grammar was twisted and slightly deformed in that last sentence, but I am not worried, for the idea is there, and I can still grasp it.
I do not understand me. This is probably because I try to hide so much of me. There is so much of me that I never want exposed. I am largely inhibited by my fear of social standards. I know that many would not accept the true me, and so I keep it bottled up.
Yet, Mrs. Gill once told me that every generation finds its voice, and then they write. It was true with African American slaves, and we see Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was true again with “free” African Americans, and we see Ralph Ellison. We see Zora Neale Hurston emerge. We see Alice Walker. I believe that Tolkien awakened a generation. Stephen King has altered society.
Where do I fit in?
Where is my generation?
What literature do I have to use as a guide? Where can I express my thoughts and feelings as I please?
Sometimes I wish that this fight for freedom and equality was not occurring. This is a terrible time that I am in. I am told to no longer repress myself, to speak openly, to expose myself. But where? Prejudice is not erased. You can sign a law, but you cannot change a person’s mind.
I do not want to live in this era. I do not want to fight. I do not want to have a reason to fight. I do not want to worry. I do not want to hide myself, my feelings, and my writings. How can I write the truth if I have to store it away, never to be seen again? Who is there to see it? Where is my audience?
I cannot write because I am afraid. I am afraid of cementing myself and accepting the person I am. I am afraid of what others will think, should they read what I write. I am afraid because I wonder about who else is going through this struggle with me, and if there is anyone at all.
I do not write because I know I cannot expose that much of myself, not yet. But oh, how I want to! I want to share my feelings and beliefs! I no longer want to live in a world of apathy. I want to share my ideals, my stories, and my emotions.
Maybe I have not found my voice yet. And maybe I never will. That scares me. But I know that I will never find my voice if I do not try. I must try. I must write, and if I cannot muster fiction, then I shall simply write the truth. Perhaps I should stop masking my life behind characters, and simply write about myself.
Whichever I choose, I must write. I must. And I believe that I have just started.