When I was eight years old I wrote what was probably my first complete story. My mom worked at my school, and in the afternoons I'd hang out in her room, waiting for a ride home. Her room was full of fun things like two doves in a cage, lots of computers, and a binding machine.
I think it was the binding machine that really did it for me. I wrote "Lindsey of Asia," cut pictures out of magazines to illustrate it, and bound it neatly. I probably still have that thing in a box in the garage somewhere.
My mom was torn between delight and horror, since the incorrigible Miss Lindsey ended up in Asia when she ran away from home because her father (the president of the United States) was mean and neglectful. I don't think I even gave my heroine a mother. After reading it, my mom wondered where she'd gone wrong.
We had a poetry contest in third grade. The theme was careers, and I wrote about being an inventor (more a mad scientist, really) and having my toes blown off. I won the contest, and my teacher carefully copied the somewhat gruesome poem out in calligraphy.
I won more writing competitions over the years, including one for a short story in college, and one about ten years ago for compiling the worst paragraph possible. Looking back, I think that awful paragraph I wrote was some of my best work.
Which brings me to my thought for the day: do I write simply because I was encouraged at a young age? If I hadn't had that silly inventor poem copied into calligraphy, if I hadn't been stuck in a classroom for hours with a binding machine, if I hadn't been forced, like all children my age, to keep a journal in class, would I have this unfortunate writing addiction?
Yes, I do mean unfortunate.
Because writing sucks up time and attention.
Because writing reveals too much of what's inside my head (and even when it doesn't, my mother assumes it does).
Because writing exposes me to rejection and generous quantities of self-doubt.
This week I've been revising Ravenswood for the bazillionth time, and it rips me apart. On one hand, I love the thing. I get sucked into that world and want to stay and wander around. On the other hand, there are parts of it I hate. For instance, some of the characters are flat as flounders (I despise them), and I think I might need to delete chapter 17 entirely.
I doubt there will ever be a point at which I can say, "I'm done. This is my best work."
Which is why on days like this I think it would be smarter not to write.