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October 28, 2013 / Angela Sylvia

The Continuous Cumpulsion to Write

When I think back on it, I’ve been writing for a long time. In my earliest memory of piecing a story together, I was maybe five. I put together a little picture book — probably autobiographical, I recall the main character having brown hair — in my grandmother’s house. Someone allowed me to man the stapler, and when assembling the book I managed to punch one right into my fingertip. I don’t remember the particular pain, just that there was a bunch of it, and that either my grandmother or aunt had to hold my hand over the bathroom sink while they pried out the curled up staple. I don’t know what happened to the book.

In third grade I was part of a two person team with my friend who came up with a picture book series about a robot. I’d come up with the words, while she drew and colored in what I remember to be neat and brightly colored illustrations.

I'm pretty sure this was the storybook program we had.

I’m pretty sure this was the storybook program we had.

There was also the story book program on my family’s old Mac, which let me put in words under illustrations I built from what was basically fancy clip art. I recall writing about girls who went on adventures and made friends with animals — always a fantasy of mine.

Even nighttime was story time. Instead of going straight to sleep in the time immediately following lights out, I would imagine (and sometimes act out) a continuous tale of a raccoon who lived in the woods with all her forest friends, or a girl who who ran way into the jungle to survive in her own with no one but a tiger and a monkey for help (I told you, me and animals). Sometimes these would get elaborate, and span months. I don’t think I ever wrote these ones down.

Eventually I moved on to novels, written in spiral notebooks and sometimes typed on the computer (first the Mac, then a Compaq) to be saved on floppy disks. These I shared with Chelsea, my high school best friend and my first critique partner, who filled her own flippy disks with stories about dragons and adventures.

It’s harder to think of a break in the continuous compulsion to make up a story than it is to remember some piece of writing I did a decade or two ago. Even when I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer, some part of my brain did, and it hasn’t stopped this whole time.

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