Q. When Did You Start Writing?
A. Seventh grade. Didn’t everything start in seventh grade? I had no idea then which assignments might turn into habits or which habits would turn into life-long pursuits. If you had asked me, I might have told you I loved playing violin and drawing more than writing. True, I woke up early to read books before school, but I also enjoyed being in the school’s musicals. It was a big deal when our class had a roller skating party, and I proved a lot of math theorems, like the other seventh graders. I was often busy tending my two-year-old sister, whom I adored. We would sled until nightfall. Afterward, I might write a poem about the color of the snow, but I think everyone probably did.
I doubt there was any special clue then that ages later I’d be lying on my couch, writing books. It certainly didn’t occur to me to be a writer. Mr. Sanborn passed out a pile of gray-blue journals and told us to fill a certain number of pages weekly, and he checked. That was all. Yet when I filled my journal, he gave me another and I filled that one, too. I’d discovered something that mattered to me, something about telling secrets to myself, and over the years, writing and thinking became the same thing.
These days I have two journals, one by my bedside where I add a few lines about the day each night before I go to sleep, and one on my computer where I go off at length whenever the urge strikes. I seldom go back to read what I’ve written. That’s not the point. I write in my journal because, at the moment, it creates sense out of my world, and it invariable leaves me saner and more grounded than when I began. I like doing it.
It’s worth remembering that not all writing has to be directed toward a deadline. It need not all earn credit, meet a quota, or get driven into a chute like prep for the CAPT test our 10th graders will soon be facing. I’m all for paid writing–don’t misunderstand me–but I know full well that the wrong directions, secrets, and lies have value, too. Imagine if we all could write for fun. Oh, wait. We can.