I bought my first book on writing when I was 15. Who knows where I even found it, since there were no bookstores for 60 miles in any direction. And I went back to my first three writing books when I started my MFA in 2018: Creating Unforgettable Characters, Writing the Script, and Writing Fiction. Yesterday I got my diploma in the mail. Today, this “how it started, how it ended” meme is going around on Twitter.
So many writing milestones involve publishing news or big investments. Most of our effort as writers may never become tangible beyond our words spilt in pixels or ink. It’s good to step back from the degrees and deals and remember why we started writing in the first place. I wrote because it gave me freedom to be whoever I wanted to be. To escape into another character for a while.
I hope I can remember that girl who decided she needed a book about writing unforgettable characters instead of whatever else may have been at that bookshop or thrift store. The girl who annotated it in ink, in pencil, in highlighter, multiple times over 16 years, by the public pool while waiting for swimming lessons to finish, in the car, on a bunk bed in a dorm, by the lake while my kids splash in the water, the handwriting shifting and changing over the years just like everything else. That first highlight in that first book is just as monumental to me as pulling this diploma out of its mailer.
Writing isn’t just having written. Writing isn’t just production. Writing is reading, and dreaming, and growing, and trying, and struggling, and researching, and breaking, and resting, and returning.
Wherever you are in your writing journey, I hope you can remember your first choices that led you here, the small victories and the big ones, the camaraderie around rejections, the breakthroughs, and the courage it takes to keep coming back to the page.