(This is part 2 in what’s turned into a multi-part series where I look back and reflect on my various career aspirations. Find the whole series here.)
When we left off, I was inexplicably writing off my space ambitions in favor of writing. Math/science = bad, writing/creativity = good.
This sudden change in paradigm and my sense of self is something to be explored at another time (trust me, I’ve been thinking about it A LOT lately). But at any rate, I truly LOVED writing, especially creative writing. Maybe my love of reading fueled this? Maybe I somehow thought that reading, which I took to like peanut butter to jelly, was incompatible with scientific pursuits? I relished writing assignments all through elementary school. In 2nd or 3rd grade, I wrote an unbelievably awful story about going to my grandparents’ house for Easter break. It was 15 pages, and I remember being really proud of that length. I also remember writing it on our first family computer that ran MS-DOS.
In 5th grade, we were assigned to write a short story for a contest. My teacher made a point to pull me aside and tell me he “thought [I] had a chance with this one” (to win, that is). I didn’t, but I loved writing some stupid story about a girl who lived in a the future and had a machine that picked her clothes each morning (I think; that’s all I remember about it and I’m honestly not sure I still have a copy anywhere).
(Which might not be a bad thing, sidenote, ever heard of juvenalia? It’s a collection of a writer’s early writings that usually get collected and published posthumously for English teachers and academics to study. Like reading Mark Twain’s unpublished letters, drafts of short stories, or writings from his youth. /English major nerd out. Anyway, I’d probably burn/hard delete all my journals and “unpublished works” before I die so that can’t happen to me.)
Then in 6th grade, we had this year-long project where we had to keep producing creative work, following this specific process of brainstorming, drafting, revising, getting feedback, etc. I think I wrote half a dozen short stories and personal essays that year. I also remember starting this story that was like Star Trek meets Jurassic Park — a group of people from the future, who travel between galaxies and planets like in Star Trek or Star Wars, get sucked through this black hole-like thing and end up back on Earth in the time of the dinosaurs.
In high school, I never gave much thought to what I’d eventually go to college for — English. Duh. To be a writer. What else was there? I figured I wouldn’t really make a living as a novelist right away, so I’d go into some other field — magazine editor, maybe sportswriter, something like that. Because creative! Writing!
Unfortunately, I kinda fell off from writing fiction for most of high school. I had a lot of white, suburban, upper-middle-class teen angst, so I journaled voraciously (and wrote a couple truly horrific poems), but fiction writing happened here and there, in short bursts. I took a Creative Writing class when I was a senior, which was wonderful, and reminded me how much I love writing fiction, but the habits I practiced there still didn’t really stick long-term.
And then, yes, I went to college (at Cal Poly SLO) and majored in English. And that’s where things got really interesting…
to be continued…