When I started first grade, shy with boys and teachers and loud with girls, I loved to write creative assignments. The problem was that I was terrible at it.
I always received my wide ruled papers back with red ink in almost every sentence, underlining confusing concepts and marking grammatical mistakes. I confused my teachers with my ideas, and they had a right to be: they were convoluted with no sense of control. I had a crazy, active imagination, but I didn’t have a clue on how to control it. I wasn’t the best writer in the classroom. Not even close. But I loved it anyway.
I had been reading since I was three years old, and I wanted to create those worlds by my own hand. I just had no idea how. I kept going though, wanting a piece of my writing on “the wall.” The wall was reserved for the best of the class, and pinned up for a week. When I got on that wall, just once, I was addicted. All I wanted was to write. It defined the rest of my life. In school, I strove for the best grades on those papers. I didn’t get them often, but I wanted to overcome my natural lack of talent. Once I was past elementary school, my life would continue to be formed by writing. With repetition, I began to grow decent with this whole writing thing. A couple of things helped me along the way:
When I started middle school, my imagination took full control of my dreams. However, unlike my daydreams and “spacing out” during the school day, these dreams were linear; I could follow them and develop a cohesive storyline. I began to write them down without ever finishing the story, but it was valuable practice. My mother would find beginning pages scattered around my bedroom, and for the first time, I heard praise. It embarrassed me at the time, but it did keep me going. I branched out to song lyrics, poems, letters, anything that counted as practice.
As valuable as my early experience was, it lacked conviction and discipline. My mother’s encouragement would only take me so far since I rarely let her read my work, due to teenage reluctance and embarrassment. I stumbled upon roleplaying on Proboards when I researched my favorite book series at the time, Warriors, and found a community of casual, but determined writers. Suddenly, I had an obligation: when I wrote posts, I knew others would read them. This made me determined to make my posts as good as I possibly could, even though my earlier attempts were cringe-worthy. On the same token, when people replied to my posts, it meant that they depended on me to respond. They waited for me to continue the thread. This held me accountable, and I soon realized what writing truly is: a community based effort.
Honestly, to this day, I still roleplay. It’s been about a decade since I started. I have shifted from Warriors to original content, but I know I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without roleplaying. I also know I won’t be the writer I can be without it.
Beginning at roughly the same time I started roleplaying, I started to wrap my ideas together. However, I pulled a lot of inspiration from reading books and manga, watching anime, and playing video games. How can this tie into my writing? Fanfiction! Fanfiction introduced me to a world where I could write complete stories without any of the pressure (I couldn’t publish them for money, after all) and fill in the empty spaces I saw in my favorite storylines. It was very cathartic and fulfilling in a time where I felt unsure and uneasy about my future – and myself. I started posting my work on www.fanfiction.net and I saw something incredible: people actually wanted to read my work. I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe people I had never met before wanted to read my work, and pushed me to update the next chapter. It helped me format my work, but more importantly, it helped me practice for the medium I wanted the most: novels. A lot of my confidence in writing and myself came from the reviews I received there, even though I can’t look at the work from that time period without flinching at least a little.
Now, I’m working as a cafe barista in order to have the time to focus on writing. I did try a career, desk type job for more stability, but it turned out I just couldn’t stay away from writing for very long. I finished the first draft of my novel in 2014, and have completed various short stories and poetry before and after. (Not to mention, of course, I write articles for AmReading!) It’s only natural. I can’t look back into my life without seeing how writing affected it on some level. It’s always been there, a driving force that I can’t imagine being without. And that’s fine by me.
YouTube Channel: Anna Dylan Brooks
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