100_1618I’ve been writing ever since I learned how to form letters with my tiny kindergarten hands. I vaguely recall creating stories even before that point in time, verbally dictating my desired words to my mother, who was glad to write them down to please me. I remember receiving my first journal at the age of seven, to which I quickly took to writing in almost regularly. As the years went by, I never lost my passion for creating written works. I wrote down every thought I had, believing at an early age that no idea should go to waste.

Journaling

My parents (well, my mother at least) believed that I was the type of young girl who would benefit from writing in a journal, or “diary.” I remember the day we went to the bookstore and picked out my very first diary. Content with my new posession, I hugged it tightly and grew eager to fill its pages with my daily activities and thoughts.

Though I failed to write in it on a daily basis, due to a second grader’s perfect memory and attention span, I never failed to, on occasion, fill its pages with my own words. They were my words. No one could copy them, read them, or laugh at them. They were what I thought, why I thought those thoughts, and everything that happened in the life of a second grader. Then a third grader, and fourth grader, and so on.

Since I finished writing in my very first journal at the age of fourteen (I know, it took me seven years!), I have burned through many more. Every once and awhile I look back in my past five journals to laugh at my younger self, or even flip back through my sixth journal (that I’m working on getting through before the end of the school year) to remember.

I highly recommend keeping a journal, even if you don’t like to write. It can do wonders to define who you are as a person. It really can.

Ten Facts About My Journaling Process

  1. I number the pages in my journals.
  2. Every day’s entry begins with the date  (Tuesday, January 13, 2009, for example) and ends with a smiley face and my signature.
  3. I keep track of which months I wrote in each journal on the inside cover (Month Year – Month Year)
  4. I like to write on the outside cover of my journals. Usually little sayings, quotes, etc.
  5. The shortest time it’s taken me to fill a whole journal was three months.
  6. The longest it ever took was seven years.
  7. I freak out when people try to steal and read them. Really. I’m talking practical panic attacks.
  8. I have to include what time it is when I start writing at the beginning of every entry.
  9. I’m probably still going to be writing in journals when I’m ninety. None of this computer business.
  10. I only write in my journals in purple ink. This habit started about two years ago and probably won’t go away.

Free Writing

I began writing down my own stories around the age of nine. My parents had gladly handed over the household’s main computer, a Windows ’95, as an excuse to buy a newer and more efficient model. The day they hooked it up in my room, I was exploring the one word processing program that existed. Microsoft Word soon became something similar to an addiction. Aside from occasional writings in my journal, I began to create my own stories.

I wrote what I knew and loved it with a passion almost immediately. My tales of lost pets, broken families, and succesful musicians left me with giddy smiles and unusual contentment. The phrase “I’m bored” was erased from my mind. I found myself drooling over the assignment of narriative essays in school. I lost the desire to sketch my surroundings. My career options constantly shifted from bestselling author to famous pop star, and back again.

As I aged, I found myself writing more and more. Though my stories and poems remained private, I hungered to share them with the world. I skipped eagerly to eighth grade Language Arts class and aced the essays, as usual. I longed to create my own writing style. I remember thinking, “All I want is to write something that other people will like.” But I also remember not knowing how to do such a thing.

As I entered freshman English 1 on my first day of high school, I was handed a journal. The class was told that such a wonder was a course requirement, in our instructor’s eyes. It wasn’t a private diary, and it wasn’t a chance to write whatever we wanted. We were given a topic to write about, or a question to answer. In August and September, my responses were short, sweet, and to the point. But that was soon to change.

I wrote my first “book” in October of that year. At fourteen, and only a semi-experienced writer, I had little knowledge of structure, exposition, do’s and don’t’s, etc. Simply put, it wouldn’t have made it to the New York Times bestseller list. But I was proud of it; proud that I had accomplished something that not many at the age of fourteen had the potential to do.

I learned from such an experience. My first “book” was not much of a success. My second, completed at the end of my freshman year, was not much better. I had begun, months ago, writing extraordinary entries in my English class journal. My teacher became very impressed with my work and recommended I take a creative writing class as an elective my sophomore year. Eager to dive into my new dream, I signed up.

I wrote yet another “masterpiece” that summer. I was beginning to see changes in my thinking process. I slowly but truly began to word things differently. My sentence structure changed. My plotlines increased in interest level, as well as level of complication. I began to realize that writing was not junior high diary entries. Writing was an art that required thought and structure, as well as a great deal of creativity and fun.

I remember the first week of my creative writing class in August of my sophomore year. I remembered hearing the way the juniors and seniors (since there were about five sophomores total in the class) presented their works. The way they worded their sentences was way over my head. I remember finding myself unable to undrstand how they could make several sentences feel so brilliant and amazing.

I vowed then and there to improve. I was tired of being embarrassed of the things I wrote. I wanted to write things that stirred readers’ emotions and made them think. I threw my entire heart and soul into both of the classes I had with that teacher. I wrote like crazy and watched myself get better and better as time went on. By the time I had completed my sophomore year, I knew where I was headed – a second year of creative writing.

During that summer, I wrote pages and pages without taking the time to stop and look up. I had found my peer editors; the friends I loved who could take a piece of my writing and critique it without hurting my feelings. I had long since become proud of everything that I wrote. Though I was modest, I never failed to thank God for the gift he had given to me.

I knew I was born to write.

Teen Ink

Teen Ink is a print magazine and website that publishes stories, poetry, and much more by teens ages 13 to 19. I highly recommend submitting, if you have a deep passion for writing (as many of us do!). If you visit the site, you can learn more about submitting, as well as read articles teens around the country have crafted and sent in. Here’s what Teen Ink has to say:

We offer teenagers the opportunity to publish their creative work and opinions on the issues that affect their lives – everything from love and family to teen smoking and community service. Hundreds of thousands of students have submitted their work to us and we have published more than 25,000 teens since 1989.

If you want to learn what Teen Ink is all about, click here. This will take you to the website’s home page.

My Teen Ink Experience

I first learned of Teen Ink Magazine when my creative writing teacher passed out copies for the class to gawk over during semester final exams my sophomore year. As soon as I read through the entire magazine, I knew I wanted to submit. I finally wrote several stories I had grown rather fond of and submitted them electronically through the site. Three months later, one of them made it onto Teen Ink‘s online collection of articles, called Teen Ink RAW.

Just recently, I received a letter in the mail (much to my delight, since I LOVE getting mail!) from the magazine telling me that one of my submissions had been chosen for the January 2009 issue. Let me tell you, that was exciting. I got a pen and everything! But really, it was proof that I’ve worked hard. I’ve come a long way in the past two years, though I still have a long way to go.

Want a sample of some RAW writing? Click here.

National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, for short) is the craziest, stupidest, most amazing online event ever created! What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? In a nutshell, it’s how I spent this past November. I’m not kidding. I wrote a 50,000 word novel in a time span of thirty days. Why did I do it? Why did I nearly kill myself completing a challenge that no one but myself could’ve forced me into?

Because the satisfaction was worth it.

It’s excessively simple. All I had to do was go onto the website, set up a free account, and start writing when November 1st came around. Let me tell you; it wasn’t easy. There were late nights. There were failing grades. There were sleeping spells in algebra and irritability in concert choir. But do you know what? It was worth all of the pain! Because when I submitted my 50,000 words and “won,” three of my family members (the day after Thanksgiving) hoisted me up onto their shoulders and paraded me around my aunt’s house. It was amazing.

It’s all about the satisfaction of novel-writing. It wasn’t necessarily an amazing book, but I’m working on it. This isn’t always for everyone. But it’s an amazing experience! I’m definitely going to do it again next year.

If you want to participate in NaNo, you’re going to have to wait until November. But to get ahead on familiarizing yourself with the site, the rules, etc., click here.

Writing is an experience that has changed my life. I can never go to a movie without critiquing the plotline at the end. I can’t read a book without finding at least one thing that I would have done differently. But all in all, writing is what keeps me going, through life and everything in it. I yeild a belief that writing isn’t just a hobby. Writing is an art that has many lovers. But only so many writers are great writers, whose words belong in books.

I can’t say I’m there yet. But it’s on my list.

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