I’ve started slowly going through my stuff in the basement. You know how it is – you pack to move, move, and then just never get to the last few boxes. No multiply this by ten moves now, and there are QUITE a few boxes that made it into my basement and no further. I started with the paperwork boxes, and it’s been an experience! I have one that’s all mail and bills, and whatever, I’ll file or shred that.
I found one with all of my childhood drawings and teacher’s notes to my parents. I believe my kindergarten teacher called me ‘egocentric’ and ‘prone to using adult language inappropriately’. Yeah, sounds legit! Also notes complaining that I refused to participate in class. Which, my parents had PROMISED that when I started going to kindergarten they would teach me to read, and when that didn’t happen? I was disgusted and refused to do ANYTHING. Hilarious! I don’t remember this clearly at all anymore, but I love how much of a snot I was even then.
There was even a crayon drawing of my dad making pizza in cast iron skillets that was easily identifiable.
I found High School class stuff which, overall, was boring.
I found photos and paperwork from the time I attended at Youth for Understanding camp to acclimate Japanese students to the US, and that brought a lot of smiles. I’d forgotten some of those faces and names, and it was a pleasure to see them again. I mean, it’s been 21 years, so I forget details, but I wonder how their lives went after we parted ways.
The most recent box is gold though.
First it started with the ever popular naked-child-in-a-sink photos. I swear that every kid since the invention of the camera has these! Then a bunch of Girl Scout photos. Lifted those and found…
My VERY FIRST short story writing attempts, starting with some I’m pretty sure go back to fourth or fifth grade. They’re terrible, the handwriting is terrible, the paper is yellowed, but I love them!
Underneath those were the beginnings of the Kaler Born series I tried to write, my VERY FIRST NOVEL. Oh, it was terrible. The artwork of characters is awful. The notes to myself on what needed to happen are juvenile. Plot? There was no plot. There were, however, dozens of characters that were impossible to track. Just a childish attempt at writing a novel For Realz.
But I love it.
If I remember correctly, that novel attempt made it to ~75,000 words. I found some sections of it printed in the boxes, but the majority was lost in a tragic magnet-and-floppy disk accident.
Probably better for the sake of the world.
It made me smile though, and reading those papers showed how much I’d grown. I mean, in one diary entry (yes a diary too!), I boasted of spending the whole day working hard and writing a page and a half on my novel.
Ya’ll, I write longer blog posts and average ~1000 words an hour now when writing, aiming for 2000 or higher in a 2-3 hour period. On a bad day, I’ll slack off and do ~500 words just to add to my novel even if I’m feeling awful. (That’s drafting, not to be confused with the horrors of revision!)
Which is not to disparage my 7th grade efforts, but I’ve improved and grown so much since then. I’ve won NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo several times, and counting it up once I guessed that I’ve written ~600,000 words on just the novels I’ve worked on.
But paging through theses yellowed drawings, notes written in childish handwriting, notes that clearly passed back and forth between me and my friends… I can see the magic that drew me into writing. I can see I was joyous and loved what I was doing. I’ve lost a little bit of that – I push myself to write better and faster, and I often write in a void where no one is reading my work until the 1st draft and revisions are done.
Maybe I need to reach out more. One summer, I was giving a close friend a copy of each day’s words, and if I was late she would call and demand that I get those words out so she could read the next part. There’s something invigorating about that support, especially when it’s all so new.
I’m a better writer.
It’s more fulfilling, more of a challenge.
But I’d like a little bit of that magic back.