(This is part 2 in what’s turned into a multi-part series where I look back and reflect on my various career aspirations. Part 1 here)
When we left off, I was inexplicably writing off my space ambitions in favor of writing. Math/science = bad, writing/creativity = good.
This sudden change in paradigm and my sense of self is something to be explored at another time (trust me, I’ve been thinking about it A LOT lately). But at any rate, I truly LOVED writing, especially creative writing. Maybe my love of reading fueled this? Maybe I somehow thought that reading, which I took to like peanut butter to jelly, was incompatible with scientific pursuits? I relished writing assignments all through elementary school. In 2nd or 3rd grade, I wrote an unbelievably awful story about going to my grandparents’ house for Easter break. It was 15 pages, and I remember being really proud of that length. I also remember writing it on our first family computer that ran MS-DOS.
In 5th grade, we were assigned to write a short story for a contest. My teacher made a point to pull me aside and tell me he “thought [I] had a chance with this one” (to win, that is). I didn’t, but I loved writing some stupid story about a girl who lived in a the future and had a machine that picked her clothes each morning (I think; that’s all I remember about it and I’m honestly not sure I still have a copy anywhere) (which might not be a bad thing, sidenote, ever heard of juvenalia? It’s a collection of a writer’s early writings that usually get collected and published post-humously for English teachers and academics to study. Like reading Mark Twain’s unpublished letters, drafts of short stories, or writings from his youth /English major nerd out. Anyway, I’d probably burn/hard delete all my journals and “unpublished works” before I die so that can’t happen to me).
Then in 6th grade, we had this year-long thing where we had to keep producing creative work, following this specific process of brainstorming, drafting, revising, getting feedback, etc. I think I wrote half a dozen short stories and personal essays that year. I also remember starting this story that was like Star Trek meets Jurassic Park — a group of people from the future, who travel between galaxies and planets like in Star Trek or Star Wars, get sucked through this black hole-like thing and end up back on Earth in the time of the dinosaurs.
In high school, I never gave much thought to what I’d eventually go to college for — English. Duh. To be a writer. What else was there? I figured I wouldn’t really make a living as a novelist right away, so I’d go into some other field — magazine editor, maybe sportswriter, something like that. Because creative! Writing!
Unfortunately, I kinda fell off from fiction for most of high school. I had a lot of white, suburban, upper-middle-class teen angst, so I journaled voraciously, but fiction writing happened here and there, in short bursts. I took a Creative Writing class when I was a senior which was wonderful, and reminded me how much I love writing fiction, but the habits I practiced there still didn’t really stick long-term.
And then, yes, I went to college (at Cal Poly SLO) and majored in English. And that’s where things got really interesting…
to be continued…