Monday, May 6, 2013

Write Like A 12 Year Old (Or What I Learned From My Michael Jackson Notebook)

The nice weather (finally!) motivated my family to start our spring cleaning.  I’m like my kids when I clean…
Dust
Dust
Dust
Oooooh, shiny object. Must play. Cleaning wha?
A box of my middle school writing projects was one of the shiny objects that caught my attention this weekend. In particular, this notebook.

Inside, I found the back half of a manuscript called CAST A SHADOW.  It was my submission for our library’s annual Be An Author contest—the highlight of my year throughout grade school.

I wrote this story right after I read Elizabeth George Speare’s THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND for the first time. It fueled my obsession with 17th century New England, witch trials, and historical fiction. Seeing my 7th grade handwriting took me back to pre-Internet days when I worked with my local librarian get my hands on all the non-fiction books I could use to research the roots of witchcraft and the politics of witch trials in the colonies.
Re-reading my loopy words in this notebook also reminded me of something that I need to carry with me as I continue on my writing journey as an adult: that I need to WRITE WITHOUT FEAR, WRITE WITH JOY.
The words on each page capture the joy I felt while creating. When I wrote, I felt like the words couldn't pour out fast enough and I didn't judge them. I wasn't afraid of them. Maybe I didn’t know anything about craft when I wrote that story…ok, I knew nothing about craft…but I did know what I wanted to do and I did it. When I'm drafting, I need to remember that fearlessness and that joy of creating.
The next time I open my middle grade WIP, I’m not only going ask my muse to pay a visit, but I’m also going to invite my 12 year old writer self to the party. She can teach me a thing or two.
And I might even go buy a Michael Jackson notebook. (Which is now a vintage collector’s item and probably costs $50 on Ebay. Sigh.)
If you wrote as a kid, what lessons can you learn from your younger writer-self?

6 comments:

  1. All my notebooks had those unicorns and horse pictures by Sue Dawe. And oddly enough, a lot of my stories had unicorns as well. Whenever I read my writing from that era I'm tempted to call it derivative, but I cut my childhood a little slack and now label it "fanfiction", hee hee.

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  2. Love this post! And you're so right about the unvarnished joy a 12-year-old has. Going back to my diary from that time, I find that I felt everything SOOOO deeply and expressed my feelings easily. As an adult, I'm much more guarded. But I can't be that way with the characters on the page.

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  3. Awesome notebook! And great writing advice for children's authors.

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  4. I found my 'first' story from back in sixth grade (yeah, that's seriously like 35 years ago now). It reads like Scooby-doo meets Stephen King and is colossally bad. But it was fun to write!

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  5. I think I had that notebook! LOL My first novel was written that way... my biggest obstacle was not being able to type as fast as the story flowed. :-)

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  6. I have a notebook of stories I wrote back when I was 7 or 8 years old. They generally follow the same theme - new girl(s) at school and new best friend have something fun/exciting happen to them. Though I had an obsession with drawing pictures and naming every single classmate in it - first and surname. Bit difficult in a tiny A6 notebook!

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