Originally published on Odyssey, April 17, 2017
This is where it all began. You know, that black and white speckled composition book you can buy for 99¢ at Office Max? This is where I learned to hope and be creative and find myself. This is where I became a writer.
It started as an idea at 8 years old. My brother says he’s going to write a book; why can’t I? So I did. I started writing the story of a boy in a Native American village who discovered a powerful staff that would give him the ultimate animal lover’s powers: to be able to talk to, turn into, and summon any animal. I fell in love with words right then and there. I had always been an avid reader and definitely had an active imagination. But with the words “Once there was a boy named Ellec, who lived in the village of Shimahee.” I knew this was what I wanted to do forever. I would be the youngest author in history.
I could create worlds with the scratch of a pencil; anything I dreamed up could be real all within the confines of my imagination and some blue-lined paper. I created friends and stories and memories on those pages. The innocent dreams of a little girl who spent her time reading a book at the top of the slide instead of running around with the rest of the kids.
Gradually, writing turned from a hobby to a necessity. As I grew older, I began to see more of the world; and it frightened me. It was full of death and war and tragedy, of greed and selfishness. I escaped into the worlds I built. Every ugly thing I’d seen, every difficult emotion and undecipherable feeling, I tried to make beautiful in my writing. Somehow, if I could just wrestle those emotions into words and pin them to the page with ink, they didn’t seem so fearsome. There was an understanding between myself, the pencil, the page, and the words that I just couldn’t find in others. There was freedom and acceptance, a place at once filled with vulnerability and fear, yet also immense calm.
The worlds I once created shrunk. Chapters became poems, vignettes, snapshots of my whirling thoughts frozen at a particular moment in time. Beauty in broken things. Hope amid fear. Dreams fleeing reality. A whisper became a voice, became a shout, became a calling. A girl was molded from graphite and ink, joy and tears diffusing on paper. Salvation for 99¢.
If you give a girl a composition book, she becomes limitless.