I wrote my first full-length novel at the age of nine, by hand, spanning three separate spiral-bound notebooks. My writing wasn’t exactly on par with where it is today, and the story wasn’t fantastic by any means.
However, I wound up finishing the 250-page (rough estimate, it was never translated over to Microsoft Word) book over the span of about 3 weeks. Granted, I wrote it during summer break when I had an abundance of free time and no idea what to do with it.
After a rather odd dream one night, I got the bright idea to turn that dream into a novel. The title? The Werewolf Destroyers. I wish I was kidding. In short, it was about two teenagers who are part of a secret organization of specialists trained to exterminate werewolf… hordes?
Adults are unable to see the werewolves, thus this society (whose name I cannot remember) is called in. Also, the werewolves eat people alive, which explains the need to “exterminate” them. I may have been 9, but I had a wonderfully bloody imagination.
The reason I feel the need to reconnect with my inner 9-year-old writer has something to do with the naivety children are gifted with. Back then, I didn’t view my novel as bad, or lacking, or downright silly (it was all of these things). Instead, I stuck with it, kept writing—in red gel pen no less—and ended up finishing it.
After I was done, I tucked the notebooks aside and acted upon the overwhelming motivation to continue writing novels. Why not? The first one had gone so well—minus my adult sarcasm.
When I got my first desktop computer (a grotesque Packard Bell complete with dial-up), I spent countless hours in Microsoft Word creating documents, saving documents, forgetting about those documents for months, etc.
Back then, I truly felt good about the work I was creating.
Now, I realize there can be no improvement without critique. That there can be no growth without the ability to look at your work critically. But what if I got so caught up with the goal of being perfect that I lost sight of what made my writing good in the first place? Creativity isn’t something awarded to you when you get a Master’s Degree in English.
You can have all of the building blocks on point, and still find yourself scrounging for materials, puzzled over your shoddy construction work. In that same sense, you can have a vast pool of creativity and waste it with bad form. Or drown in it, depending on which mental image works best for you.
To find your balanced center, you have to chisel away at your work in a critical manner, while also taking the time to sit down with your inner creative child and let things go.
Your inner child will offer up an abundance of terrible story concepts, but underneath the bad suggestions lurks a granule of untapped cleverness. They see the world from a different point of view, despite having no way to articulate it. Thus, you step in as an adult and complete the effort… as a team.
For the longest time, I forgot how to do that. I shut my inner 9-year-old away with her stack of spiral notebooks and mile-a-minute scribbles. Then, I settled for farming the harsh desert soil as an adult writer, ignoring all of the water I had left behind.
This year, one of my main goals is to reconnect with the part of me I pushed aside. Reconcile with her, if you will. Because there’s nothing wrong with whacky ideas, spiral notebooks, or werewolves—eh, scratch that last one.
Ask your 9-year-old self, she’ll explain it to you.