I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t creating stories. I like to grant credit to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for making me fully realize that this is something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, that it’s my purpose so to speak. It was like Hagrid breaking down my door and telling me, “You’re a writer, Anna.”
However, even before my grandparents gave me my first Harry Potter book, hell, even before they started teaching me how to read and write in school, I was already reading. I can’t recall if I was writing, but I certainly put together my own little booklets. They were a series of pictures that told a story, sometimes one I came up with myself, sometimes a re-telling of one of my favorite tales, like The Little Red Riding Hood. Man, I did like that story, because I changed it and Red Hood saved herself… according to myself. It’s much better, don’t you think? I dressed up like the Red Hood, too. Then I walked around the family farm with a basket full of stolen goods from the kitchen and found a shady spot to relax, snack and read or draw.
Growing up on a farm and close to a large, dense forest and spending so much time with books had a huge impact on my imagination. Sure, I had friends, but I preferred reading books and drawing to playing during recess. Honestly, I thought most of the other kids at school were dumb, boring and frankly, mean so I liked the warmth and friendship that books offered. I could tell you so many stories about all the crazy ideas (and fears) I got throughout my childhood, partially from the mere fact that my parents forbid me to walk into the woods on my own. What was in the forest besides animals? My imagination ran wild with that. Not to mention the darkness that arrived every night. With little to no light pollution, it got really dark, enlightened merely by the moonlight. It was both scary and mesmerizing. But you could see all the stars above. Looking up at the night sky gave me lots of ideas, too.
So how did I figure how to write? More specifically, how do I grasp my own voice and tell a story my way?
If you find yourself wondering that for yourself, the one thing I can tell you with confidence is that everyone goes through their own process and finds themselves writing in different ways and under different circumstances. You simply have to trust that whatever journey you have to go through to find your own voice is the right one. The right one for you. And however you like to do things, when you do them and how you got there, it’s right.
I, for instance, continued reading as I got older. I wrote short stories, poems and as a teenager, I wrote five short novels. (People at school were still dumb, boring and mean.) Honestly, four of those novels started as fan-fiction and grew into their own unique stories, but I’m proud of those nonetheless. During college, I almost finished a novel, but I started over at least four times until I gave up. It wasn’t until a month ago, I completed a novel project again and this is after undergrad and grad school. I studied creative writing and took many literature courses in college; Shakespeare, James Joyce, American literature, British lit, women’s lit, one odd and fun course about stories that don’t fit neatly into genres, plus one poetry course and many other classes. My friends, I assure you, college doesn’t promise that you’ll suddenly turn into [insert favorite author here] and become rich and famous. I mean, I recently learned that Haruki Murakami owned and ran his own jazz club when he decided to write, no training or anything, and the rest is history. There is no set path.
Knowing the “rules” of writing certainly can help, though. My next step was learning how to break and bend them so they would work for me. It felt like I was truly writing in my own voice in my latest novel – shamelessly, freely, happily. I like to emphasize “shamelessly” because there are so many people who love to tell you how to tell a story. Or who should tell a story, maybe that so-and-so has no right to tell this-and-that type of story. Fuck ’em. You do you.
There are only three rules to writing in my opinion: Show, don’t tell. Stay hydrated. Get enough sleep. In the next few blog entries, I’m going to talk about the different things I’ve learned about writing, the various author who’ve influenced me and so forth. I’ll probably post a schedule on my Instagram next week or the week after that. It’s too much to cover right now. Please check two of my older entries in the meantime, where I discuss books I love and how I don’t make up the characters… they come to me.
Gotta go! Have a great weekend, nerds!