Sarah Cline (Grade 7)June 20, 2011
The Small Steps that Make a Writer
I know that they are there somewhere; those little white books, made of nothing but stapled together office paper, my messy illustrations and my mom’s neat handwriting. They are probably in one of the white boxes labeled “memorabilia”, under a pile of photos and an untidy stack of imaginative, though not particularly decipherable, childhood drawings. I won’t know exactly where, however, until I take the time to search for them, time I have not had recently. Even so, I still like to think about them.
From around the age of five, I would narrate stories I had thought of to my mom. She would write them down, and then staple the pages of the story together into a small, flat little book. These little books were some of the first pieces of writing I ever worked on. They were my first Book attempts. Some of them were my version of popular fairytales like “Cinderella,” while others were whole new stories I came up with myself. Though I don’t remember all of these inventive stories, there are a few that stick out in my mind. The one I wrote about a child dinosaur not wanting to take a bath, for example, or the one about the Princess slumber party. Those books, as silly and whimsical as they were, played an important part in my growth as a writer. They laid the foundation for my writing journey, a foundation I am still building on.
Although the stories I wrote as a young child acted as a foundation for my understanding of writing, by the age of eight, I had somewhat outgrown the resourceful little stories. Still, I had not stopped writing. I began to transition into a new kind of writing that I had discovered: poetry. I may or may not have written poems before the age of eight, but I do recall writing my first poems at eight years old. I was in my grandparents’ small vacation home in Florida, and it was late, approximately ten at night. I had carefully worked on several poems in my makeshift bedroom, writing them into a journal. My favorite of the night and the one I most clearly remember was “Dragon Nest.” I quickly committed it to memory, and got it published in a small competition at my local library called “Kids in Print” a few years later. The poem was simple, the rhymes unexceptional, but I was extremely proud of my work.
A year later, in fourth grade, something little happened that, nevertheless, had a big impact on me as a writer. I was one, maybe two weeks into the school year. I had for the first time in my life been enrolled in a home school group with a curriculum and deadlines and teachers, as well as many other new things. I don’t remember much, but one class stands out clearly in my mind. It was a writing class. I also remember the teacher. She stood out to me for her honest love of teaching, her vivacious personality, and the fact that she always added something into the class to make it interesting. Class was nearly at an end, and the teacher was announcing the winner for the bio poem project we had been assigned. I was leaning on the table in a bored way, only half listening, when my eyes widened and her voice came into sharp focus. Was it true? It was! She had said that the winner of the bio poem assignment was me! The prize she handed me was nothing special, a sticker I believe, or maybe a pretty pencil or two, but it meant the world in my eyes. Not the small prizes, simply the fact that out of all my classmates, there was something about my poem that Ms. Hope had deemed unique and good. To me it seemed like a validation of something I had suspected, but not yet confirmed; that I was a good writer, and maybe, just maybe, other people would think I was too.
As small as that was, it felt and still feels like that day was a mile stone. It was the first time I really started believing in myself as a writer. I think from there my interest in writing really took off, developing into less of an interest and more of a love. I’m now so grateful I took those classes in writing. Even the basic things I learned there, like how to dress up sentences and how to “show not tell” when I wrote helped me develop my writing skills so much. I think what I appreciate most about those classes now is the fact that they really put me outside my comfort zone as a writer. Though that is what I once disliked most about these classes, now I am grateful that I was pushed as a writer. I would, for example, never have written “Mary’s Adventure” in fifth grade, a story about a girl traveling on the Mayflower, had I not taken those classes. I simply wouldn’t have looked into writing about a topic like that. And therefore, I would have never gotten it published in a blog called “Student’s Publish Here!” I would have missed a great writing opportunity! That’s another thing that taking writing classes gave me: opportunities; opportunities to get my work out into the world, even in small ways, and opportunities to build my confidence as a writer. I believe taking writing classes have played a crucial roll in evolving my writing skills, and just generally giving me so much more knowledge about writing then I had before I took the classes. I plan to get much more out of writing classes in the future!
Now I am in seventh grade, and my love for writing is continuing to grow. I am still writing poetry, and my knowledge of poetry specifically has diversified. As much as I love writing poems with simple rhythms and rhymes, I now also enjoy writing poems with more complicated rhythms, and more complicated subjects. I’ve also recently begun writing a book. I believe I may have plunged into a plot line too complicated for a first-time novel writer, but I am comforted by the fact that, whether my luck holds or not, this book attempt will be better than those little white books, made of nothing but stapled together office paper, my messy illustrations and my mom’s neat handwriting. In fact, over the years, I’ve seen my writing improve a lot. That’s what I’m most proud of. I know my writing will never be perfect, but the constant improvement I’ve seen in my writing gives me motivation to make it even better, and the confidence that I can
Why I was ever interested in writing at a very young age, I don’t well remember. I suppose at such a young age I saw it mostly as a pass time, a way to fill up the hours not spent doing other vital things, like dress up and make believe games with my sisters. Since my love for writing has grown, however, I’ve come to see writing not as a pastime but as a form of art. Through writing, you can express yourself, paint a beautiful picture of anything you want, if only you have the right words, and know how to use them. I am still learning all the words I can, as well as learning how to use them. Yet, I can’t help but see I have a bright future ahead in writing, whether it affects my life in little or big ways. Even so, I know that throughout my life I will always have more to learn about writing. But that’s just one of the many things I look forward to when it comes to writing; there’s always a new challenge to face, always something else to improve, and always something new to learn.