At six years old, I thought I was the next Dr. Seuss, so I stapled some computer paper together and wrote a story with less than subpar illustrations—I’m pretty sure the main characters were pigs, but they probably looked a lot more like blobs with curly tails. With bubbling excitement, I gathered my mother and my two younger sisters around the kitchen table and read my debut “novel” aloud. Although today I may not even remember its title, it was something I was proud of—the spawn of a half an hour of sweat and tears and the endless limits of a child’s imagination. It was something I wanted the whole world to see.
Fortunately, my writing has improved since my picture book days, not counting the phase in middle school where I thought that every line in every poem had to question the meaning of life in order to be considered “good.” It’s exhilarating to open up a blank Word Document and see what becomes of it—to see my feelings, my questions, and the people I love pop onto the screen. But to me, creative writing isn’t just about having a pastime or an emotional outlet—the thrill is in the experimentation.
Some people prefer to write with the big picture already in mind, but whenever I develop an idea, my thinking process expands from the inside out. Thus, a common first step for me is to choose my subject so that I can move onto the preliminary test: profiling. Gathering initial observations to formulate a hypothesis is crucial in any experiment, so I spend time finding out what makes my subject tick. Am I dealing with an angsty teen or a lonely, middle-aged man? A cunning, headstrong businesswoman? A valiant hero from ancient times? Delving deeper, I begin to manipulate the factors, recording the subject’s reactions to the introduced conflicts, and before I know it, I’ve hit the subject’s interior complex. More often than not, however, I’ve found that my conclusion does not match my initial prediction. But I’ve also found that that’s completely okay—more than okay.
Through the years, learning to create characters with levels of dimension has prompted me to view the world through the same lens. Life could do with a little experimentation, so I consistently ask myself: Why not? Why not challenge myself with difficult courses in school? Why not travel to a foreign country? Why not strike a conversation with a person I’ve never met? Why not? Anything has the potential to lead to the unexpected, so when opportunity arises, I seize it.
Take six-year-old me, for example: paper, a pencil, and an unexplored imagination called my name, and now I’m here, writing an essay on writing. Strange, isn’t it?