Once upon a time, when I was little, I went outdoors on a summer afternoon. I walked down the long driveway, from the backdoor of our yellow house, past the garden and the swingset, toward the garage. As I walked, I heard my own voice inside my head, telling the story of what I was doing. I knew the story stretched back to my beginning, and that I was just noticing it, not beginning it. I knew the story was happening still, and that it would keep on happening, as long as I kept on telling it.
That is my first memory of writing. At the time, I was only 4 or 5 years old. I wouldn’t have called it “writing” then, but when I follow the ribbon of my words all the way back, that moment is their anchor
Next, I recall a day in 4th or 5th grade when I decided to write a detective story. I wrote the title, The Mystery of the Golden Bell, across the top of the page and began on my story, scrawling along in pencil until I reached the end of the paper. I started on the next sheet, wondering what would happen next. And then it happened – the revelatory moment when I realized that if I was going to write the story, I had to know what was going to happen in the story! Alas, I had no idea what happened in the story, so The Mystery of the Golden Bell remains unsolved.
I’m interested in the beginnings of things, so I asked some friends to share their earliest memory of writing. I find the responses fascinating (also cute, funny, and characteristic).
My friend Katherine’s first memory is oddly appropriate to her later life. She’s a published author of a series called Crime with the Classics. I love that her earliest writing memory involves a “trial” with her mother playing counsel for the defense.
In sixth grade we were assigned to write a short story (possibly from a prompt, I don’t remember). The teacher accused me of having copied my story from a women’s magazine. My mother successfully defended me from this charge. I remember nothing about my story except that the main character was named Betty.Katherine
I was struck by how many writing memories are connected to teachers. It’s a good reminder that writing is social: the activity itself may be solitary, but what is written is a communication, and sometimes we need help from mentors and friends to launch it into the world.
I remember in the 3rd grade my teacher trying to encourage me to enter a story that I wrote for a class assignment to a state writing contest. I was so nervous and scared that I told her I couldn’t send it in. After much encouragement, I agreed to let her mail it in.
About 3 months later, my teacher called me up to her desk before going outside for recess. All the kids had gone outside. She handed me a large manila envelope. As I opened it, a 1st place ribbon fell into my lap. I pulled out a spiral bound book. It was the stories of all the top 5 winners.
I remember just sitting there shocked. My teacher had a huge smile on her face, and she showed me a box of books that I had won for our school.
I couldn’t believe that I went from being this kindergartener who struggled with English and who saw a special teacher to help with reading writing, to a 3rd grader who won a state writing competition. It still makes me smile and warms my heart thinking about it.Nancy
My third grade teacher taught us how to write poetry and arranged to have several of us read our poems on a local radio station. That was a thrilling experience for me and inspired a lot of poetry writing in my school years. Some of my poems were published in obscure little anthologies of children’s poetry. Funny, I’m not sure I even remember how to write poetry now.Elizabeth
In first grade, our teacher had us do little writing assignments. But I don’t remember what I wrote. What I remember is that she wrote a poem about me being an author. Definitely changed my life.Laura
The 5th grade teacher would give us lists of spelling words to use in sentences. I made the sentences into a story.
The 6th grade teacher asked, “Have you ever heard the term ‘stream of consciousness’? That’s what you’re writing.”Frederica
In addition to helping build good writers, good teachers make good teachers! Check out this memory!
[My first memory is of] Learning to write in Kindergarten. We had these 10×10 (?) Letter books with tactile glitter letters on the front (one book per letter). I also remember Phonics workbooks and spelling tests. 😂 Creative writing memories are mostly from 6th grade because I think we actually had creative writing time with my teacher. I teamed up with a classmate and we wrote a “scary” story that was shared at the end of the year writing celebration. This is one reason why I loved doing writers notebooks with my 6th graders when I taught ELA. Drop everything and write days. It was the first chance in school they were ever told to write whatever they wanted to write! For some it was a challenge and they needed prompts. For others, they thrived in being able to express their thoughts and ideas. Otherwise quiet or class clown kids let their creativity shine!Irene
This next made me chuckle. It’s from one of our #Blogtown friends, Elzabeta at God Has Promised.
I wrote a series of interviews with Garfield the Cat. A lot of lasagna was spilled. I also wrote my own sequel to The Empire Strikes Back because George Lucas was taking too long.Elzabeta
George Lucas was taking too long! 😀
Here’s another early writer with her eyes on Hollywood.
In second grade I wrote Charlie’s Angels FAN-FICTION on construction paper in crayon. I think. Now I’m starting to doubt my memory. I definitely wrote SOMETHING in crayon and folded the construction paper into a ‘book’.Cynthia
There were so many stories shared that there isn’t room for all of them in this post, so I’ll close with this one, which I love because it resonates with my own, deep, early memories of STORY – the core of all meaning and beauty in my world.
Well, I remember in kindergarten, we were all writing stories about sea creatures–but I was incredibly frustrated, because my teacher wouldn’t let me write it down myself, instead insisting on taking my dictation. Certain other classmates with neater handwriting were allowed to write their own, and I felt it was a great injustice. (The story itself was about a sea urchin, which I liked because they were purple, and was quite inane.)
My first memory of storytelling, however, was before that, a collaboration between myself and a truly remarkable babysitter (also Orthodox). My backyard was transformed into a magical realm, with each landmark being given Anne of Green Gables-style names, and C. S. Lewis-like cosmological significance. My dolls were central characters, of course, and were joined by several more who were portrayed by her and by myself at various points in the story. Together, with the aid of my trusty slingshot, we worked our way through rising tension, the apocalypse, and even into the Age to Come. If I ever write a story that feels as beautiful and exciting as that one did to me then, and does still despite my forgetfulness of the particulars, I will be well-pleased.Elizabeth
8 thoughts on “What is your earliest memory of writing?”
In a way, the love for narrative was acquired at age 5. When I was about 11, my teacher would read to us, then ask us to write what we felt about it. Other times, there were experiments in describing a painting, music, in similar fashion. I loved these exercises; my heart would beat a little faster when the next such exercise would come along.
Composition became more complicated in junior high and high school, and increasingly enjoyable. In college, writing poems, essays and short stories followed; then one day I wrote a review of a musical light show for the student newspaper. Seeing it in print, and hearing how others reacted to it, identified with it, hooked me. I changed my major from Psychology to Journalism, graduated and spent the next 45 years as a news reporter, editor, and feature writer. It’s been a journey with the Word, and words.
It’s amazing to look back and see the path. Makes you wonder what path you’re on now that you can’t yet see the end of.
My earliest memory of “writing” might also be my earliest memory of drawing. I was three years old, and I remember trying to draw the outline of the letter “H” on a brown paper bag. I was sitting on a linoleum kitchen floor covered with cheesy 1970s paisley patterns. No idea why it was that particular letter, though.
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Fascinating! My mom made us sketch books out of brown paper bags, and I remember drawing on them when I was very small.
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I love this and the stories you shared. My sister read to me when we were kids so I have always enjoyed reading.
I read my first poem in third grade. The teacher would give us one poem a week to illustrate. I would spend hours coloring and drawing mine front and back. At the end of the year we had about 30 pages in a book! I still have it.
I remember really connecting with Robert Frost at that time. The tone of his poems was enough to get me curious. It just evolved from there. Writing is good medicine these days! And so much fun.
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What a great way to connect to poetry!
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What a fun post to read! As a child I loved to write simple stories and draw the pictures for them. My mom actually kept one of my earliest ones and gave it to me recently. It’s a story about a prince saving a princess. Even though I’ve never had any writing published I’m so proud to see my own daughter stretch her wings. She won fourth place in a regional competition and had her story published in an anthology! She’s written another short story and her creative writing teacher is helping her to try to get it published!
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Good for her! I think sometimes we are the fruit, and sometimes we are the tree that bears the fruit. What we haven’t managed in our own lives sometimes comes to our children in theirs.