I remember when I first identified myself as a writer. Or rather, when someone else identified me as one.
I was in 7th grade. My English teacher asked to speak to me after class. I made good grades. Usually never any trouble. The model student. What could this be about?
Mrs. Batey asked me if I’d like to submit any writing to the high school literary magazine.
Literary magazine? I didn’t even know our high school had a literary magazine. She told me about it, that they accept poetry, essays artwork. She asked if I’d consider writing something. A poem, perhaps?
I answered quickly. Too quickly. How could I say yes so fast? Without even thinking about it? Yet, I remember, somehow knowing, knowing, I could do it. She told me to turn in something the following week.
I went home, and quickly wrote. I hadn’t truly written any poetry, not since first grade. For some reason, I remember clearly the first two poems I wrote at the age of seven. At least, these are the first two I remember. I still have a handwritten copy of them. One poem was about pets. I didn’t have a pet, but I enjoyed the rhyming of “cat” and “mat” and “sat”. So Dr. Seussian of me.
The other poem was about holidays. I remember spelling the word “weigh” as “wai”. Yep. I also rhymed “fun” and “ton”. Quite the limited vocabulary of mono-syllabic words.
I had filled notebooks of journals, since I started keeping a journal at the age of 10, so writing was not new to me. But poetry was new.
As it turns out, poetry writing came easily and naturally. It was a fluid expression, not something I had to force myself to scratch through, and came up with a few possible entries.
I turned in a couple of poems the following Friday. I distinctly remember it was a Friday, the last day of school for the week. I recall the excitement in the air over the imminent weekend, the restlessness of the class, the chattering in the background, as I walked up to the front of the room, heart beating, hands shaking, while the rest of the class chatted and waited for the bell to ring.
My teacher took my cursive, handwritten poems on the white lined notebook paper and began reading. Her eyes grew wide, her mouth opened.
“These are beautiful!” she said.
I wasn’t sure how they would be received, but here was my English teacher’s reaction- and she wasn’t pretending to like them. She really did.
Now, in full disclosure, those poems weren’t that great. They were the scribblings of a 13-year-old growing up, trying to make sense of the world, deal with teen peers, and they weren’t what you’d consider “good”.
I actually remember a few lines of one of the poems:
“Another year is passing by
As we sit and watch the rain
And wonder if anything
Will be the same again”
See what I mean? Nothing extraordinary there. But, she submitted the poems on my behalf.
And the surprising thing?
The poems were accepted- and published; at least one, if not two, were published that first year. In subsequent years, I submitted more, and more pieces for consideration. I even submitted my artwork (pencil drawings), which were also published.
My senior year, the English teacher-editor who worked with the student staff on the publication jokingly told me one day they should change the name of the magazine… to my name. She was teasing, of course, but she was referring to the fact that I had so many entries each year.
When I was about 18 years old, I recall worrying that my creative days were almost over. I thought I had better hurry up and keep working, because my creative days would be over very soon. I thought that by the time one reaches their 30s or 40s, it would be, well, nearly over.
I laugh at that now, of course. While there is truth that plenty of creativity exists in young people, it surely doesn’t end at 40. Thank goodness. Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief that creativity doesn’t die at 18.
This is the moment when I first intentionally, deliberately, began my “writing” and could self-identify with being a “writer”, though I did not call myself a writer until years later. That was not the end of my writing life, however. Stay tuned for a future article, where I share my adventures when I worked for a newspaper as a reporter. Yep. You don’t want to miss it.
Now, I’ve got to run and make sure my creativity hasn’t died yet.