How I Started Writing

Ugh. This is one of those weeks when I really don’t feel like talking about anything specific. Here’s a random story about how I got into writing instead.

If you want to get technical, I guess you can say it started when I made comics as a kid. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories in some way, and since art was a huge part of my life I tried making comics for a while. But it wasn’t until middle school, when our family had a decent computer and Internet service, that I started writing writing. If you even want to call it that.

A lot of my earliest stories were fan fiction. I don’t know what inspired me to even write something like that except for one Legend of Zelda fan site that had someone’s story on it. There were probably some other fan sites that had something similar, but anyway, I started writing cheesy fan fiction for Zelda, Dragonball Z, and other stuff I was really into at the time.

I think my first actual story (again, if you want to even call it that) was written in eighth grade. It was a weird love story that reeked of first-time writing. Even the title, “Only For You,” was super cheesy. I don’t even know if it’s worth talking about. It still had strong video game-like tropes in it from when I was writing fan fiction about different games. Some guy goes to school, and his only friend is this girl that’s super nice to him and I guess they had feelings for each other or something predictable like that. Anyway, this guy also has a bully and ends up killing the main character’s friend, so the main character kills him, too. With his sword.

Because oh yeah, this teenage protagonist was also a swordsman, I guess.

Anyway, he leaves town and wants to find out what’s at the end of his continent (because again, let’s write a story that’s totally not about a video game). He meets this tough guy who follows him because… ? He rides a motorcycle while the protagonist… runs at super fast speeds.

Ugh. I can’t describe the cringing I’m feeling. Anyway, they meet some psychic girl that goes with them and they find this lighthouse at the end of the continent and they see the ghost of the girl that died and she told him to live life or something dumb. I don’t know. Who cares. But yeah, that was my first “original” story.

At around the same time I started writing poems. A friend/girl I liked wrote poetry too and e-mailed me some of them to read, and I e-mailed her some of mine. I can’t really remember what either were about, but you could probably guess they were the same kind of poems we all wrote as middle schoolers. There were no video game themes, thank god. They were all about feelings on growing up.

I wrote another short story during my freshman year of high school, but I honestly don’t remember a thing about it except I wrote it during a very whiny, bratty time in my life, and the story probably felt similar.

I stopped writing poems after my freshman year as well, although I can’t remember why. Maybe it’s because me and the girl I liked weren’t really friends anymore, and she was the only person I was showing poems to. So I guess I felt like if no one else was going to read them, what was the point? Stupid, stupid me.

The friends I had at the time weren’t exactly the reading type if things didn’t involve comics, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. Maybe that’s why I drifted out of reading fiction that was about real people and real feelings when I was in high school and college. That’s an unfortunate part of having your interests scattered — you can only get particularly passionate about so much, and you tend to concentrate more on whatever the people you spend time with are into. Most of the people I hung out with then were into anime and video games, so unfortunately that’s where most of my focus went.

However, I still wrote stories in high school. One of my friends wrote an extremely bad short story for one of his classes that involved him, me, another one of our friends, and that girl I liked (which was extremely awkward considering he didn’t even know her, yet was written as if he was her love interest). We went on this stupid RPG adventure to save the world from an evil man that killed our master, who trained us in the art of listening to tutorials on how to play RPGs. I won’t spoil this magical tale for you (as if you had any way to read it), but I’ll say my favorite part was definitely the time when we saved some town from completely burning down, but before somehow magically restoring it to normal, went to a perfectly intact McDonald’s where no one seemed to notice what the hell happened outside. Perfect.

I can’t remember if I was the one to come up with this idea or if it was someone else’s, but I wrote a parody to this story. His was way too serious and as a result, it couldn’t be taken seriously. So I wrote a comedy about our group of friends doing the same thing, except being idiots the whole time. My friends loved it (except for the one that wrote the original story, but we made up about it so I don’t feel particularly bad), and I ended up making four more during my time in high school. It turned into a parody series of just about everything we were into at the time, from video games, TV shows, anime, and even ourselves. It was really exciting to write them at the time because when I announced I was working on a new story, my friends would constantly ask if it’s ready yet. People were excited about something I was making. And it felt good. I would work on it as soon as I got home from school and just keep writing for hours. It was really great.

Unfortunately, those stories are really dumb and immature. We were in high school, so naturally it wasn’t going to be fantastic or anything, but I’m so embarrassed at some of the jokes I made back then. It also doesn’t help that each story was pretty much written for my friends because of all the references, so once again I found myself unable to share something I’d written with a lot of other people.

My friends and I went our separate ways after high school, and I was extremely frustrated with adjusting to college life. As much as I drowned myself in anime and video games when I wasn’t doing schoolwork, I actually did write a decent amount while I was at community college. I started a couple of longer stories (or at least an outline for them) that were more or less about my struggles with change, only I tried disguising them as fantasy stories that were more suited as scripts for anime or video games. One of them got pretty long, though — about 100 pages, single spaced. I don’t have any desire to go back and work on it, but sometimes I wonder if I should read through it again, just for the hell of it.

In my second-to-last semester at community college, I took a creative writing course. And it was pretty terrible. It was an 8:30 am class, we sat in a cold room on the basement level, it was pretty dark, and no other student was really into the class. We didn’t even really learn what made good writing. We basically took turns reading our stuff for critique, but the only people that would regularly contribute were the professor and me. I didn’t want to be that guy who had something to say about everything, but I was honestly really annoyed that no one else was showing any interest in being there and couldn’t bear the silence. Don’t want to be in the class? Drop it. Or don’t sign up for it. One thing’s for certain — that class didn’t make me want to pursue writing outside of it being a hobby.

When I transferred to my four year school, I switched my major from liberal arts to literature because the counselor I spoke with recommended I choose something more specific. Literature had three different tracks: literary studies, creative writing, and another one I can’t remember. I chose literary studies because after my experience at community college, I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic about another creative writing course.

Well as it turned out, someone goofed and gave me wrong information. If I stayed on the literary studies track, I would have needed to take more courses than I was told, and all of them were courses I held absolutely no interest in. After talking to another counselor, I was advised that switching to the creative writing track would help me graduate on time (I also had a limited number of semesters my scholarship would pay for, and I already wasn’t in a great financial situation).

Reluctantly, I switched, and I’m so glad I did. The creative writing program was much better than the one at my community college. There were passionate professors and students, the classes were much more engaged, and we experienced short stories and poems outside of critiquing each other’s works.

I felt out of place, though. I was surrounded by people who were much more familiar with literature and writing fiction and poetry. I focused too much on anime and video games in high school and community college, and I felt like an outsider. I tried embracing more realistic forms of reading and writing since then, and although it took a while, I eventually found myself more at home than I was with my previous forms of writing.

At first, most of the stories I wrote were pretty dull. I guess that was to be expected, considering they were my first actual workshops. It wasn’t until I fell into a pretty big depression during the middle of college when I started writing better. Maybe it was that I’d been writing for a little while at that point, but I think it had more to do with me using that depression and using it as a fuel to write more passionately. I won’t say everything I wrote from then on was good, but I think I finally found some sort of voice, and everything I wrote from then on seemed more natural.

And there’s not much more to say. I wrote and read more in the following workshops, I researched writing and writers more, and I overall ended up experiencing more through writing and reading. It’s kind of anticlimactic, especially considering everything with my writing is so up in the air at the moment, but there you go. I’m kind of embarrassed I had such a dorky beginning to writing as opposed to some childhood epiphany by reading people like Ronald Dahl or Shel Silverstein in their libraries, but I’m a pretty dorky person so I guess that fits. :3

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4 thoughts on “How I Started Writing

  1. I started junior high/high schoolish, too, but I largely kept it to myself because I hardly had friends and my brother trained me from an early age to keep everything I liked to myself because he was/is a huge asshole who verbally abused me for anything and everything he could latch onto or think of.
    But fortunately(?), pretty much every budding writer starts off with derivative Mary Sue shit. I don’t even want to describe mine because it’s too embarrassing. I suppose it’s good for me to remember it so I can have compassion on writer noobs and tone down the fire of my snobbishness — which only works sometimes, when they aren’t convinced that their derivative Mary Sue shit is the consummation of Tolkien, Jane Austen, and all of the Russians combined.

  2. I’ve actually never done any creative writing classes, which might just be a good thing. I think that ultimately I’ve learned that the best path to writing is reading. As you point out, quality reading makes for quality writing. It is unfortunate, but not much in the world of Japanese media really hits those highlights. There is a time and place for pop-culture, but not without the sturdy foundation of classic literature. Sorry for sounding like a professor, but this point hits home for me.

    Thank you as always for your informative posts.

    • Unfortunately, I think you’re right. For a long time I actually DID get something meaningful from stories in stuff like video games and manga, but as you said, you need to read to be able to write, and if you’re going to write fiction and poetry, you need to read more fiction and poetry. I don’t think that’s ever been more apparent to me than when I went to a workshop outside of school, and there was this man there who had pretty poor writing to share. He told us he doesn’t really read anything and didn’t understand why he needed to read to be a writer. Thanks a lot for reading! 🙂

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