It’s amazing how inspiring cleaning the house can be. So, while listening to “Jump Around” by House of Pain and sorting through old papers, boxes, and magazines, I came across my treasure of old stories and novels that I have attempted to write into completion. And while the music played on, and the vacuum and furniture polish were tossed to the side, I read through the pages, and I thought of one story in particular. My very first book that I ever wrote was called, “A Light Burns At Midnight,” and I wrote it when I was ten years old. It was 50 pages long, handwritten. I don’t even have it anymore and to be honest, I’m not really sure what happened to it. The last time I saw it, it was in the lower dresser drawer inside of a Lion King folder that I used for school. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, really, but every time I look through old stories, I think of it.
At ten years old, I thought my idea for “A Light Burns At Midnight” was pretty good. It was about a young girl moving to a new neighborhood and discovering that a candle goes on every night at midnight in the empty house across the street. Of course, within the high school and town, there are all sorts of stories going around about it being a ghost, or something. So, being the Nancy Drew-inspired writer I was at the time, I had the young girl bring together a team of (new) friends to investigate the light coming from the house across the street.
So, coming back to the present, now that I successfully distracted myself from house cleaning, I thought about the significance of this story and why it stays with me, still today. In recent years, I have learned very quickly that one of my biggest struggles with writing is the whole finishing thing. I become my own worst enemy when I try to go back and rewrite my story when I am not even done with it. For me what happens, I end up losing my steam and motivation and after a while, I scrap the novel or short story entirely.
So, what was so different about myself as a ten year old and now?
1) I just wanted to see how the story would play out.
At the time, I just liked my idea and wanted to see where the story would go. I didn’t focus on whether or not it was publishable. I didn’t focus on whether or not people would like it and if it would be worth finishing. I just enjoyed myself and enjoyed the process of telling a story (remember what that’s like?).
2) What self doubt?
No, I didn’t have a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Nope, I wasn’t published yet. I just liked to write. I didn’t even think about those other things that seem to get in the way now. I just wrote.
3) I just wanted to finish the story.
Towards the end of my little novel, I began to lose my energy. It would have been easy for me to push it aside and say, “I’ll go back to it later.” But I didn’t. I kept at it, even when my handwriting got sloppy and my hand got tired, and I started writing sideways. I kept at it until i finished it. And I did. I even wrote, “The End.”
4) I wrote with a pen and paper and that was fine.
I didn’t have a computer growing up. Actually, up until I went to college, I would have to go to the library to finish typed assignments. So, for me att ten years old, I didn’t think twice about not having a computer and having to handwrite my ideas. I especially didn’t say, “Well, I can’t write till I have the right equipment.” I wanted to write, so I wrote. No excuses.
5) (I have to repeat this point)…) I didn’t let “excuses” to get in the way.
I know, I know, at ten years old, what type of excuses would I have to not write and be creative? I was still at the age where “playing pretend” was okay, so of course, writing and creativity would be okay. Well, now that I’m a bit older , and I have responsibilities, things to worry about, expectations to meet, and everything else you can think of, I have all kinds of reasons to not write. But most importantly, if you want to write, you can’t let excuses get in your way. I didn’t then, and I shouldn’t now.
So, what did I learn about my ten year old self? She had a lot of wisdom, back then, that’s for sure. 14 years later, I have a lot to still learn about writing, but too often, I think I let my obstacles get in the way too many times. Whether that’s self doubt, responsibilities, the degrees I don’t have, the publications I haven’t yet obtained, or the right equipment…they all serve to be barriers standing before me, daring me to jump the hurdle and go for the finish line.
My inspiration came from the ten year old I was once was and still hope to be. My advice? Be creative today. Get in touch with your inner ten year old. Write for the fun of it. Remember what that’s like?