As I have come to allow myself the freedom to write more and more, which is something I have struggled with, I have become more reflective on what brought me to this point. Not just looking back at what caused me to return to writing, but what it was about writing stories hooked me in the first place.
I honestly can’t remember my first introduction to stories, or, more specifically, writing them. From a young age I was reading stories, and I imagine it wasn’t long after that I began to create my own stories. I am so thankful that I wasn’t only introduced to stories by my parents, but encouraged by them to explore creating my own stories. There is something beautiful about knowing that I was able to let my imagination run wild and explore the possibilities, that I was able to be limitless in my creativity. At some point, it grew into something more significant. My stories became more than entertainment and escapism, they became growth and a greater outlet for creativity. They were something significant that reflected how I felt, and took form in something that I could create for other people, and not just for myself.
My earliest memory about writing and my own storytelling was during the summer of 2003, right before I entered into 3rd grade. Rather than sign up for a sports or science camp, or take part in a youth retreat, my parents signed me up for a story writing class. And I don’t think it was entirely their choice, I probably got to have a say in what sort of class I would take. What 9 year old voluntarily goes to a writing class, especially in the summer? It was very simple, we wrote stories on our own, we talked about them together, and that was largely it. It wasn’t complicated or involved, but I can recall loving that experience, mostly because it was the first real nudge (from outside my family) to create more stories.
My First Story
It wasn’t until I was in middle school that the idea of writing a story that could be a book really took hold. I vividly remember the night it happened, from the sensation of writing the first words, to the way the moon illuminated the clouds in the night sky outside my window. I had a small flashlight, and I remember writing pages and pages of this story I could see in my mind’s eye. I remember the excitement as I began writing a story with a dream and a hope for something so much more than anything I had done before. It was so unusual for me, a moment of such clear, random inspiration that hit like a thunderbolt. I think that’s why the memory has endured so strongly. I was heavily inspired by the story of Christopher Paolini writing Eragon when he was fifteen, which was about the same age I was at the time, so I could only dream of creating something like he had. I had the gift of youth, so my desire to write and create wasn’t about success, it wasn’t about money. It was purely about a love of writing and storytelling, and I’m so thankful that’s how it all started.
My first story, and many that followed, began with characters who lived ordinary lives who were drawn to heroism and greatness. They were stories about characters that sought something more, and reflected a desire to believe in and pursue greatness. There was always a moment when the ordinary world was interrupted by something that would then carry the hero or central characters to greatness. Beyond this being a common device in literature, I think the concept of an escape from an ordinary life was a metaphor for more than just the stories I wrote. I think they reflected something more personal and intimate, and were simply manifested in the writings I created.
Around the time I entered high school, there was a pretty significant shift in my life. Something changed in how I looked at the world around me, how I saw myself, and because of that, everything changed. I moved away from a lot of my creative pursuits and instead turned my focus to sports, athletics, and wellness. I joined the Track and Field team and competed all four years of high school, and into college. A disproportionate amount of my time and energy became invested in running, training, and learning about the human body and athletic performance. I went to college initially because I wanted to continue with Track and Field, and I chose to take my degree in Human Health and Performance. I loved what I did, but looking back I can see that a lot of my decisions were based on how other people looked at me, how they treated me. With that came a shift in how I defined myself, which was only reinforced by my supposed peers and other people around me. I began to connect with people differently, not necessarily inauthentically, but it changed my relationship with the things I loved. Creative pursuits weren’t rewarded the same way that my athletic performance was, or who I was when I was a part of a team, whether it was a training group or a sports team. Those relationships rewarded me the more time and energy I put into them. Before long, I began to define myself by what I could do athletically, by how I performed on meet days. I never stopped doing what I loved because I wanted to do it, but I found myself putting more emphasis on the things that were more socially rewarding for me.
A Return to an Old Passion
My return to creativity and writing came at the end of my first year after graduating from college. As it is for a lot of young adults, that year was a season of change, growth, and wrestling with the determination of where I wanted my life to go. I began writing again as a purely creative pursuit, with very few ambitions for it at the time. It started with carrying a small notebook during the summer of ‘18. I carried that notebook with me everywhere. It was with me at work, out with friends, or at home. Whenever I had an idea for a story, a character, situation, aspect of lore, however random or seemingly disconnected, I quickly added it to the notebook and then left it alone. And slowly, over time, the notebook began to fill up.
In the autumn of the same year, I started organizing my scattered notes into a larger narrative, with a world and mythology. I traveled to my grandparent’s log house on an island off the coast of British Columbia for a week, and between my time working on the property, I wrote. I began to format the notes and ideas into stories and character arcs. I began to ask the questions of how and why some might work together, and which ones would not fit. From there, stories began to take form from the overlapping characters, arcs, and stories I had only started to imagine.
After synthesizing and organizing my notes, I had several concepts for stories I wanted to write, which ranged from individual novels to entire series. I started writing my first novel (words to paper, not just ideas, notes, and outlining) on May 5th, 2019. It was the first story in what I hoped would become a series, which I felt was a strong starting point with my growing fervor for creativity, and the storyline was far from the most ambitious I had imagined. The last thing I wanted was to become overwhelmed during my first experience. Even more significant, the story was very contained in its scope, so it allowed me to focus on the characters and the story, and needed far less attention spent on developing and expanding a larger world.
Inspiration through Dungeons and Dragons
One surprising spark of inspiration for writing and storytelling came from creating adventures and stories in Dungeons and Dragons. Less than six months into writing and about a year into exploring creativity, I was introduced to D&D. It was a remarkable practice in interactive storytelling, where the audience are also participants, and they are in the room with you as the story unfolds. More than any other form of storytelling, it needs to engage the audience and allow their active participation. As a Dungeon Master writing an adventure, I learned about making a story concrete and thorough enough to feel real without falling into needless exposition, while also allowing the freedom and creativity of the players to shine. I also had to be comfortable not relying on participation from my players, as there are times when it is solely up to me to carry a story, and the players are either unwilling or unable to. At those points, players took the role of an audience, where the burden of the story is mine, and mine alone. Balancing that dichotomy was like balancing the lines between creating the world for my readers fully through my contributions, and having the restraint to allow their imagination to expand it.
Within the workshop of D&D, I was able to hone my skills through really practical experiments with suspense, intrigue, about leaving hints and clues for my players to pick up on. I learned (and am still learning) how the very subtle use of voice, language, music, and even silence can help influence the style and genre of a story or adventure. I have tested my ability to create narratives for my players to drive, as well as being adept at guiding my own narratives and being confident in my ability to improvise and elaborate on to fly. My role is to make the story as immersive as I can, to not shake the players out of their experience, but to help draw them deeper into the tale they are a part of. By using narrative and storytelling devices, creative and well-known, as well as characters, tropes, arcs, and storylines, I have used my craft to make something significant, meaningful, and hopefully memorable for my players. The most important part I have found is to create a story that they want to be a part of, a story that they want to return to and see its resolution. I see this as no different to writing a novel, where the author wants the reader to be invested to the point where they continue reading until they reach the end, unable to step away until the story reaches its conclusion.
Making Writing a Priority
I made the decision to be serious about my writing in November 2019. A lot of my daily life was logical and physical in nature, and I wanted to add something mentally creative into my routine. At that point, my work in progress had grown to over 16k words since beginning six months earlier, and I had reached the point where I wanted to dedicate more time to it and grow in my consistency. I started with two goals. First was to write daily. I gave myself the target of 300 words a day. I wanted to start with a relatively attainable goal which would also serve to bring confidence each time I found myself exceeding it. Secondly, I dedicated one weekend a month as a “Writing Weekend.” Each day during those designated weekends, my daily goal increased to 1,000 words along with taking the time to expand the world, work on details of the setting, and taking the time to intentionally create more than just the written narrative. Reserving Writing Weekends for expanding the lore and worldbuilding kept me disciplined in my work on the actual story, and not distracted by the other aspects of my creativity.
I found that maintaining consistency was huge for me. Making daily progress, whether it was meeting my target word count for the day, or making notes and edits when I was going through revisions, all allowed me to make strides forward, even in small increments. It really does all add up. At the time, my attainable goals were created to fit within a schedule that was not too conducive to dedicating a lot of time to that pursuit. When I was beginning this, I had a relatively new job that I was invested in, a social life I was actively involved in, as well as doing my best to remain active daily. So I created patterns, fell into rhythms, and set goals that helped me progress within the constraints of my situation, with the hope that it could grow and expand in a season that would better allow it. Naturally, it has changed and flexed and adapted in the year and a half since I first began focusing on consistency.. I have had months where I saw significant progress, and months of slow, slow progress, but the hope to make this dream a reality is still there.
The future of my writing is uncertain, but ambitious and hopeful. At this point, I don’t believe I will ever let it go, and I hope I never have to make that choice. I want to create, I want to write in a way that it can be shared and enjoyed by others, and I want to continue to grow my craft. I would love to someday reach the point where my stories can be published, and not just through my own platform. For now, I am content with continuing my work on my novel (nearly 2 years in at this point), as well as engaging and creating with storytelling through the Writer in White as a platform, and the practice I get from the short stories of the Alerian Chronicle and other consistent content here in the meantime. So here’s to the future, and whatever adventures it may hold.