Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Dear Diary

I started trying to write a diary in the first grade. It was red and locked with a key. I think it may have even had Snoopy on the front. Of course, I couldn't make coherent paragraphs yet, so I drew pictures to further communicate my ideas. There are only a few entries, but as I recall, they consisted mostly of mundane things. In one entry in particular I explained that we had fish for lunch and drew myself eating a trapezoidal plank of mystery meat. I also wrote about the kid who sat next to me. His name was Brad and I seemed to think he was funny. I remember him telling me that he was allergic to milkshakes. I brought this up to him, some years later, in the seventh grade. He thought it was funny too, but admitted that he couldn't remember ever being lactose intolerant.

In the second grade I graduated to a Cabbage Patch Kids notebook. There was no lock on this one. Obviously, I had begun to live dangerously. Somewhat more adept at creating a coherent sequence of sentences, though by no means a master, I continued to sketch pictures to emphasize certain points. However, I branched out even further that year. I wrote my first poem, which had something to do with flowers. I also wrote a play about a princess and attempted to recruit classmates as actors. This didn't go over as well as I thought it might, considering my teacher had several conferences with my parents in which she expressed some concern that I preferred to hold auditions during class time, rather than working on assignments. Naturally, I loathed her, though that word wasn't yet a part of my vocabulary.

Third grade proved a pivotal one for my writing career, as I moved on to short stories. My style had naturally improved and I sounded less like a dyslexic robot. Compound sentences entered my repertoire, and my audience was understandably impressed. I distinctly remember writing a story about a door-to-door snowshoe salesman. In it, he explained that he found selling his wares more difficult in the summer time, as people had little need of snowshoes during that season. I think it was actually my father who suggested that the town should endure a heat wave that caused the corn in the fields to get so hot that they popped their skins and created a blizzard of fluffy, drifted popcorn. Naturally, snowshoe sales rose sharply that summer.

I've blocked out much of fourth grade, considering it was one of the most hellish years of my academic career. I focused on my drawing skills that year and don't recall writing anything of great significance. However, in fifth grade I got a typewriter. I think I began two books that year. Of course, they took too long to write, and I abandoned them after a couple of months. Despite my discouragement, I had found my medium: novels.

Throughout my three years of middle school I began and abandoned roughly twelve books. I remember most of the general ideas. I spent most of my time on characterization, but also developed my sense of setting. Therein lay my weakness. I could come up with a million characters with tons of cool names and attributes and place them in the most interesting situations, but once I put them there, I didn't really know what to do with them.

In high school, I dug into poetry. Now able to comprehend poetry more easily, I also found I could write it. Here, I didn't have to come up with characters or plots. I could develop one idea through suggestion. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch became the sole means of my expression. I could hint at a thousand different scenarios with a few short lines. My obsession with this form continued into college, but I've moved away from it in the last few years. In fact, I'd moved away from writing anything for myself. I've poured all of my creativity into essays and research papers for the last three years.

Now, I'm back where I started. With no outlet for the ceaseless voices in my head (yes, I know they're all me), I've made myself an electronic quasi-diary. Not only is there no lock, but it's out there for everyone to see. I've never considered myself an exhibitionist, per se, more like a compulsive scribbler. However, there's something oddly comforting about the fact that I know I have a very small audience. They're the same audience I've always had, my friends and family, but they could grow. No, I don't mean procreation. I mean, someone else, someone I've never met could read this and find something comforting or funny or, God forbid, educational. I suppose that's why any person blogs. They may want attention for its own sake, but I think they're also looking for some kind of connection. For some people this medium may be the only thing that actively ties them to the rest of the human race, and I find that comforting too.


The Frustrated Novelist said...

I have always wondered how the authors of mysteries came up with their novels. Did they start writing and just end up some place, or did they start with a conclusion and then work backward to leave us the necessary clues? I confess that after over 40 years of reading them, I am still mystified (groan) by the whole process.

All of that is leading up to agreeing with you that figuring out what your characters are going to do is the big problem for me, as well.

How do you do it now?

girlspit said...

I think the best way is to plan it out, almost like you would plan out an essay. Make a rough outline. At least that's what I'm trying at the moment. From what I've read, most writers do it this way. They know basically what will happen, and then end up having to rearrange things to fit a character's personality or as they come up with new ideas. Thanks for reading!

Cara Leanne said...

Wow look how much I have read. That's a good morning at work well spent. Thanks for writing, Hamilton girl.

Cara Leanne said...

Wo wo wo, you're not from Hamilton. It seems that's just your husband. In fact you seem to be from a whole other country. Interesting..

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