“Ah, to be young again,” people say. I have to chuckle when I hear that. No thanks. The years have made me a better writer, and being old now gives me an excuse for being grumpy.
I thought I was doing pretty well until the other day when I uncovered my baby book in a box in the attic. I’d been looking for some research materials for an action-adventure novel I’m percolating in my head. Instead, I found this ancient archive of my childhood.
As I gingerly moved it out of the box, some papers fell from it. These weren’t just ANY papers. They were all cut the same size, and bound together with a plastic-coated twist-tie. They were BOOKS. On them, my mother had written lightly in pencil “5 years old.”
Not only were they books, they were books I’d made – by hand. I’d illustrated them, and they rhymed. How in hell had I managed such a thing at five years of age? Granted, there were spelling errors, but those should have been caught by my editor. And for crying out loud, I was FIVE.
This made me smile – but not necessarily why you’d think. I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen. I remember writing story books about talking animals on magic islands when I was in third grade. In Kindergartenish times, I clearly recall fudging some details about a visit to the arboretum while writing the post-trip recap. Well, technically, that wasn’t lying. It was for the sake of art, hence – fiction.
But did any of those mean writing was in my blood? I sort of thought so, but who was I, really, to make that claim? What empirical evidence did I have?
I can’t tell you how many times interviewers have asked me “why do you write?” Honestly, that question makes me borderline belligerent, as does “when did you first know you wanted to write?” How do you say “I was born to write” without coming across as narcissistic? And how do you prove that statement?
I’ll tell you how you prove that statement. You thank your most excellent mother for saving those precious pieces of paper that give you peace of mind and validity when you say “I was born to write.”
There is one drawback, however. These newly discovered one-of-a-kind first editions pose a new mental conundrum: when I was five, I produced three picture books. Three! In 2013, I had only one new picture book go into publication. Dammit. I thought I was going great guns, but now, I’ve come to realize – I was more productive when I was five. Ouch.