When I think back on it, I’ve been writing for a long time. In my earliest memory of piecing a story together, I was maybe five. I put together a little picture book — probably autobiographical, I recall the main character having brown hair — in my grandmother’s house. Someone allowed me to man the stapler, and when assembling the book I managed to punch one right into my fingertip. I don’t remember the particular pain, just that there was a bunch of it, and that either my grandmother or aunt had to hold my hand over the bathroom sink while they pried out the curled up staple. I don’t know what happened to the book.
In third grade I was part of a two person team with my friend who came up with a picture book series about a robot. I’d come up with the words, while she drew and colored in what I remember to be neat and brightly colored illustrations.
There was also the story book program on my family’s old Mac, which let me put in words under illustrations I built from what was basically fancy clip art. I recall writing about girls who went on adventures and made friends with animals — always a fantasy of mine.
Even nighttime was story time. Instead of going straight to sleep in the time immediately following lights out, I would imagine (and sometimes act out) a continuous tale of a raccoon who lived in the woods with all her forest friends, or a girl who who ran way into the jungle to survive in her own with no one but a tiger and a monkey for help (I told you, me and animals). Sometimes these would get elaborate, and span months. I don’t think I ever wrote these ones down.
Eventually I moved on to novels, written in spiral notebooks and sometimes typed on the computer (first the Mac, then a Compaq) to be saved on floppy disks. These I shared with Chelsea, my high school best friend and my first critique partner, who filled her own flippy disks with stories about dragons and adventures.
It’s harder to think of a break in the continuous compulsion to make up a story than it is to remember some piece of writing I did a decade or two ago. Even when I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer, some part of my brain did, and it hasn’t stopped this whole time.