“I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”
― Joan Didion
I began writing when I was in first grade and had to walk home from school. The bus dropped me at the bottom of our mile long dirt road and as long as it wasn’t too cold (we lived in Vermont), I didn’t mind the walk. After I began telling stories in my head, I started looking forward to the walk.
My stories were about 7 year old girl things: girls named Jessica with long, blonde hair who spent their days riding horses. The walk took me anywhere from 20-30 minutes because I’d stop and sit on a big rock along the side of the road and get lost in the stories. They were an escape from the loneliness of growing up in the woods and took me to colorful places.
When my sister started school I was in the 3rd grade and well into my daily storytelling ritual. She got off the bus beside me and as we passed the big red barn and plugged our noses to block out the thick, wet stench of cow manure, she started talking. And kept talking. I tried to ignore her but by the time we reached the Maher’s house halfway up the road, she asked me why I was so quiet.
“I’m telling stories in my head,” I said.
“Well tell them out loud,” she said. So I did. But the stories weren’t as good out loud. I had performance anxiety and Jessica’s love for her horse and trouble with her friends didn’t seem all that interesting out loud. I kept the story going until we got home but was filled with discouragement. Maybe my stories weren’t as good as I thought? While my sister fixed herself a snack, I hurried to my room and started writing. I needed to figure out a way to make the story as good on paper as it did in my head, then I figured, I could read it to my sister.
I didn’t realize it then, but my stories weren’t about Jessica and her love of horses, they were about me and my desire to escape my suffocating small town. They were about me trying to find my way. I started writing in the 1st grade and I’ve never stooped. I keep writing because like Joan Didion, writing helps me know what I think.
(Inspired by: WEGO’s prompt: Quotation Inspiration. Find a quote that inspires you (either positively or negatively) and free write about it for 15 minutes.)