Do you remember your first story?
I remember mine. I was about five or six when I wrote it. It was written without any planning (as were pretty much all my stories and yours too I’m guessing) and was about three or four notebook pages long. I remember the little red notebook that stored all my illegible notes that I called stories. The first one was about a girl who had a gift of trust. This is basically what it was about:
A little girl wants to know what trust means. She asks her mom but then her dad walks in and says they are going to the swimming pool. (Random, I know. But I was only six then.) At the pool, the little girl won’t jump off side and into her dad’s arms because she is scared. He finally coaxes her to do so after he tells her to trust him. After making a great splash (I wrote the word ‘splash’ in caps with probably about five exclamation points) and realizing what fun she had, she continues to have a wonderful day with her father and learns what trust means.
I can’t say many of my other initial stories were were any better. They were pretty dumb. But looking back at old writing is beneficial for several reasons. First, it allows me to see where I have (or have not) improved. If I can make it past one minute of reading cringe-worthy, sloppy and poorly written text that I proudly created years ago, then I can easily distinguish particular areas that I have improved in. I have obviously polished my skill at writing since I was six, but even reflecting on my old stories, I know there are areas that still need improvement today.
Another beneficial reason for writer’s nostalgia is that fact that the simplest stories are often the best ones. I’m not saying we should all write about little girls learning to jump off the edges of a pathetic swimming pools, but we should embrace the simple lessons learned. For me, it’s the moral of the stories that inspire me to bring what I read to real life. It’s the simple lessons the characters are put through that encourage to face my everyday challenges in similar matter. No story needs to be complicated. They can be complex – beautifully complex. But sometimes contemplating the humble workings and simple ideas in a story can inspire us to find the beauty and truth in them.
Go back to your first story (or the earliest one you can recall). See it from a younger perspective when you first wrote it. Why did you write it? Were you a young, naive individual who simply had nothing better too do? (That’s what I was.) Were you a hurting person carrying the weight of questions and doubt with fiction writing as your only escape of the onslaught of fear and/or pain?
Maybe your earliest story was dark and grim. Maybe you hopelessly gave up on it. That’s okay. Now see your first story from your current perspective. How far have you come – both in writing and in life? What has changed? What are the truths you still hold onto?
I’m not proud of my first story. It’s definitely something I don’t really want to see ever again. But it has truth in it – just like every story should. For a little six-year-old, it meant quite a lot to me. As you craft your own writing today, think back on that younger you. There is a message you want to convey today, just like you did when you wrote your first story many years ago. What did those stories mean to you then?
What does your story mean to you now?