I was 10 when I decided I wanted to publish a book someday. That became The Dream. While I was learning how to read in first grade, I was simultaneously falling in love with words. How they worked, how they sounded, how some just fit better than others in certain sentences. I loved learning new vocabulary and I was obsessed with being a good speller (fourth grade bee runner-up right here—I missed “inadequate” with “inadequit.” The irony was not lost on me).
Words were my kind of magic. Sentences were math I could wrap my head around; puzzles to be played with and perfected. I wanted to fill my brain with all the beautiful words, twirl them around, and pull them back out to create my own stories.
Not many pre-teens can say they completed half a manuscript by high school, but that was me. Unfortunately, I worked so long and hard on it that too many years passed and it just … died. As I grew older, my writing style changed and so I kept diving back into old chapters, re-writing and editing and re-editing until the story was almost unrecognizable and I just ran out of things to do with it. It’s one of my biggest life regrets. Long gone are the days of Creative Writer 2 and so it sits, a massive stack of papers held together with binder clips, in the dark recesses of my closet. A computer file with almost 100 painstakingly crafted pages doesn’t even exist. That fact occasionally worries me … if I ever lose those papers, that huge chunk of my childhood is just gone.
Some kids have drawings and doodles and macaroni art to bring back that innocent nostalgia—I have haikus and short stories and vivid diary entries. I started writing creatively when I was 8 and never looked back. My poetry made it into our local paper when I was in eighth grade and the thrill of seeing my name in print sparked a blaze of ambition. As a high school sophomore, I signed up to take “Introduction to Journalism,” a new elective, and that was it. Most teenagers don’t map out their entire careers at 15, but I did.
As I dove headfirst into journalism—working on my high school paper, my college paper, a magazine internship, a newspaper internship, another magazine internship, and all the other odds and ends of my post-grad career—the part of me that loved literature sort of shrank into the shadows. There’s this interesting dichotomy between literary writing and journalistic writing and since I’ve dabbled in both, I’ve been straddling that line for most of my life. One side typically has to take precedence over the other and I’ve always been confident that I chose the right side for myself. There was a reason I didn’t major in English Lit—though I did minor in it and happily took fiction workshops, poetry workshops, and nonfiction case studies. I wrote screenplays, essays, and an in-depth analysis of Shakespeare. But being a word nerd has limits and since I never had any desire to teach English (and because I became utterly addicted to life in a newsroom), journalism won. Continue reading “On chasing dreams (all of ’em).”