The Productivity of Youth

“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.

Brooks' Early Edition Books
K. S. Brooks’ Early Works

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.

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

25 thoughts on “The Productivity of Youth”

  1. My mother saved nothing. We moved so often she purged every time and I have nothing left from childhood. Those are treasures. Keep smiling at them and let them inspire you to -er – four picture books for 2014. Get busy.

    1. We moved a lot, too. I’m very lucky. I have two apps to write to fulfill my contract before I can get on to picture books. Maybe next year! 🙂

  2. Once I landed myself on a ski run where I shouldn’t have been. Along comes this dad with his four year and he stopped to ask if I was Ok. I told him I was a bit nervous. The four year old looked at me and said, “go swoosh”, and pointed down the run. All kids can swoosh without a thought no matter the art style. You are born with it and don’t know any better(lol) until an adult tells us we can’t. So keep swooshing Kat, you are doing a great job.

  3. Great story! It shows a lot – that our interests form early and that burning desire was there even before kindergarten. I’m glad my first book has been lost to time. When I was four, I sat down at my Mom’s manual Royal typewriter and painfully recreated every word from Green Eggs and Ham. I’m pretty sure the Seuss estate would not look kindly on me publishing that today!

  4. It’s awesome that you still have these. I’ve got some of my own stuff of a similar vintage stashed in a box in the closet. And if the world knows what’s good for it, that’s where it will stay. 😀

  5. I was too busy reading to get any writing done at that age. I learned to read before kindergarten, did 239 book reports in 2nd grade, but I never stopped talking about becoming a writer. I created library cards for friends to borrow my books while still in grade school. My other passion was fishing. I remember asking my Father to buy me a fly rod when I was eight. He told me I could wait until I became a famous outdoor writer and then fishing tackle companies would give me a new fly rod to write about. My early treasures are memories that I’m currently writing about for a collection of Hillbilly Savant essays.

  6. It’s great that you found those. If you can cut out cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc., you’ll have just as much time as you had when you were a kid to write (though maybe not the energy). 🙂

  7. Pure joy, Kat, to have something you created before anyone could tell you what you couldn’t do. I’m reminded of my first picture book, but alas it is only etched indelibly in my mind; no loving parent ever saved anything from my childhood.

    Excellent post, Kat.

    1. Your memory is much better than mine, TD – I had no idea I’d made these. I just figured I was busy building laser death rays out of play-doh. I’m glad you have the memories. 🙂

  8. You may feel you were more productive when you were five, but what about the quality of your work? Is it as good now as it was then? Sometimes it’s worth sacrificing quantity for quality.

    On the other hand, it sounds as if you have the basis of a brilliant memoir in your discovery. Perhaps it’s time to write that? With your track record, lots of people will be interested.

  9. Kat, obviously your mother recognized talent when she saw it!

    It is so nice that she saved them, and even nicer that you found them!

    This story even brought a tear to my eye, you cheeky lady. 😉

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