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One Giraffe and a Few Bicycles Later

March 22, 2010

The first fiction story that I remember writing down was in sixth grade English class. I don’t think a single piece of schoolwork had ever before and has ever since thrilled me as much as that one. We had to write a story on how the giraffe got his long neck. It was a group project, and we delegated certain jobs to the different kids in the group. One did the drawings, one did the story, one put it all together, etc.

I wrote the story.

The giraffe, you see, got his head stuck in a glass jar. He had to get the help of his friends, various animals, (of which the cheetah was sure to be one, since I was in my cheetah phase) to assist him in getting his head out. He and his friends keep coming up with various ways to get his head out of the jar. They try to break the jar, but they decide broken glass is too dangerous. They try to make his head slick with water, but he nearly drowns. Lastly, they all get together to help him pull his head out. Some of the animals hold the jar, and some of them hold their dear friend, and they pull. They pull, and they pull, and they pull. As they pull, his neck gets longer and longer. At the end of course they succeed, because when you work together as a team everything works out.

It was a darn good story for 6th grade, and I decided that I was a 12-year-old literary prodigy. I knew it. I felt it in my bones. I’d been making up stories all my life, but this time it got me a good grade, instead of teasing at the dinner table, because “Starling was talking to herself again.” Also, a lot of the other stories sucked, and I was flabbergasted that some didn’t have as much fun as I did with this assignment.

In fall of 8th grade, I decided that it was time to write my first novel. Never mind that the story was not exactly original- in fact I’m pretty sure it was almost identical to a movie that I had recently seen- I was determined. I was sure that it would be a masterpiece. I was a prodigy after all. I got discouraged 20 pages in because I was halfway done with the story. I gained a lot of respect for those who wrote long novels. That might be why I loved Gone With the Wind so much.

I fell in love with poetry in 10th grade when we read Emily Dickinson’s The Railway Train. In 12th grade I wrote a poem about angels that I still love with all my heart and wouldn’t change a word of. I have a book of poems that I’ve written through out the years. It doesn’t get added to much now, but I still love a lot of them.

But mostly I rode my bike and mowed the lawn.

With five other kids in the house, two ADD parents, (one of whom was a woman who found creativity hilarious- and not in a good way), and a 100 yard long driveway, the answer to cramped quarters was obvious. I rode my bike. Back and forth, back and forth. For hours. The same 100 yard trail. Sometimes for up to four hours at a time. It was exactly the repetition that I loved. I could get lost in my stories. Mostly they were romances at the core. I was usually the star player in these stories in some form. If mowing needed to be done, I almost always volunteered for that too. Not only did I love fresh cut grass, but it allowed me to get lost in my own world again.

All these stories about stories. And what do we have at the end of the day? A woman who is still uncertain that she should be writing, that’s what. A woman who still makes up stories constantly, but still feels periodically like she should be ashamed of them. The worst of it all? The type of story she likes.

Fantasy and romance- often together.

The shame washes over me even as I type it. I wrote a whole novel that was not my favoritie genre because I wasn’t ready to admit what I actually like. And then it turned into a romance of sort, so I “killed” the new boyfriend and attempted to redeem myself. Most of my stories are set in worlds that don’t technically exist. I get lost in these worlds daily. I’m not a character in them much anymore. Mostly I just walk around and watch stories happen. It’s a bit scary in a way, because I’m watching the story unfold, instead of orchestrating it, but I’m getting comfortable with that.

And at the end of day, I’m a writer- a storyteller to my core, whether I like it or not- whether I’m good at it or not. I can’t stop being one just because I decide to or because I’m afraid of being one. It’s like saying I don’t really want stubby legs. Tough shit, Starling. Accept it, and work with what you have. Put on some heels and start up the word processor. There are worse lots in life.

Besides, it’s damn fun writing sometimes.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 23, 2010 8:32 pm

    YAAAAAAAAY!!!!!I'm so damn proud of you. As you know, I understand so much of what you said. Be proud of it. Be proud of you.Own it, girl! =)Oh, and I have been affirmed many times that the story often writes itself; you don't have as much control as you think you do. I experience this, too. A lot. But it's not scary; it's part of the wonder. It's part of the art.

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