Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Writing Stories

When I was in first grade, I learned how to read. I didn't start early, like some children do. I didn't learn to read at all until I started first grade. But, at almost the same time, I starting writing.

At the time, all we had in school was Dick And Jane. I supplemented Dick and Jane with simple stories of visiting the farm, a few of the things I felt that the Dick and Jane stories left out They were suburban, like me, but they just didn't seem to have a wide enough experience of the world, in my view. A little later I began a series of stories about two girls who were best friends, remarkably similar to my own best friend and me. The stories, I think, we also updated versions of the Maud Hart Lovelace Betsy-Tacy books. Turn of the century Mankato was transformed into suburban Minneapolis, with adventures such as: putting on a play in the garage, sleeping outdoors in a treehouse, and trying to avoid annoying brothers and sisters.

I had a brief foray into feminism with "A Girl on our Baseball Team": vintage about 4th grade. I am amazed at how undeterred I was by the fact that I didn't know anything about baseball. I tried my hand at mystery stories at least twice. And in junior high, I dabbled in science fiction. One earnest story, I remember, was about how the computers eventually took over the world, unwilling to leave it in the hands of fallible human beings. (I did not have any conscious knowledge of 2001 or "Hal" at that time. really.)

I wrote alone; I wrote with others. I remember one year going over to a friend's house nearly every day after school and taking out a cheap Schaeffer cartridge pen and sitting down together to write stories. We sat at a low child's table in her basement and scribbled furiously while the TV hummed in the background. We would take turns reading portions of stories to each other at the end of the afternoon.

In junior high I also experimented with some (in retrospect) really bad poetry. I started writing short humor pieces, as well. I continued to write stories: of families with many children, of campaigns for student council president, of young people running away from home. I wrote one humorous one-act play, and a story about a little girl who believed that someday she would be famous. It was called "destined."

However, somewhere along the line I just stopped writing stories. I think I was freer when I didn't know how much I didn't know. I wrote stories, unconcerned about facts, about research, about areas of the country, the world, and historical events. I wrote stories to make life more interesting than it was. I wrote stories just because I liked it. I wrote stories because I liked to hang around words.

I still like stories. And I like, more than ever, hanging around words, hearing the way they sound. But I haven't written any stories for a long time. I don't know exactly why. I know it's a lot harder than I used to think it was. Maybe that's part of it. Maybe I'm less curious too, but that would be sad. But sometimes I miss it: creating a little world, with people and places and plots thickening.

I wonder if I will ever write another story.


The Unlikely Conversationalist: said...

if you preach from a manuscript you are writing every time you prepare a sermon. And if you keep a blog going you are writing. Maybe you aren't creating the characters right now and seeing where your imagination can take them; instead you are letting the Spirit use your gifts to tell a story that isn't your own but God's.
keep writing

Presbyterian Gal said...

You will write stories again.

I did not write anything except film production finance reports and management memos, and then notes to teachers for many many years. Because the stories were stewing.

Sometimes they just have to stew till they're done. And believe you me, they'll let you know when they're done.

FranIAm said...

Oh yes- you actually are writing stories every day, in your heart.

While the blog is more non-fiction, it is still a story, your story.

Sorry to get on my little RC pulpit, but indulge me please...

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, OP and if she was about anything she was about how we use our gifts.

In her eye, we are all given vastly different ones and that to glorify God we must use them.

You already are, more please!

OK, neo-pagan idol worshipper rant over.

Now I am just going to float through my day with images of young Diane, her stories and her dreams.

Amen, amen.

P.S. an after-thought said...

Yes, you are writing in a different way these days, but all that practice helps to make you the preacher-writer that you are and the interesting blogger that you are. And maybe you are also a letter writer.

To do all that writing as a child, you had TIME which a lot of kids these days don't have because they have to be transported to school and activities and all sorts of scheduled events.

One of my children is very bright and talented, but I can't understand her lack of curiosity. She would rather sit in front of a re-run on the TV than take an adventure into a book or writing or something new.

You like adventures of many kinds.

GreenishLady said...

I feel I'm reading stories here all the time. But if you're feeling the call to writing Stories (capital "S"), then where's that Schaeffer pen? Start, and the story will follow. Enjoy!

GreenishLady said...

I feel I'm reading stories here all the time. But if you're feeling the call to writing Stories (capital "S"), then where's that Schaeffer pen? Start, and the story will follow. Enjoy!

kim-d said...

I could have written this post. The only difference is, I always wrote my stories alone rather than with others, and I didn't let anybody read anything I wrote until I was in high school. My Creative Writing teacher wanted to read my (also really bad) poetry and stories. To this day, she is the only one who read them. Now, there is my blog. It's very satisfying and I love it. However, it's not the same as writing stories. But, then again, I'm not the same person I was when I wrote the stories...

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Ah, now I understand why you commented "You go, girl" about my fiction writing.

Maybe you just need some space in which to let a story grow. Maybe you're doing so much other writing that the well for writing is all used up. If you ever want to try to get back into story writing, it's ok to start small. I've had periods where I restarted my writing by doing only 100 words a day. It's tough to do a novel like that, or even a short story, but if the story is there, you'll soon be doing more than 100 words. Just don't be hard on yourself.

Wyldth1ng said...

This is your story.

That is why we keep coming back because we want to know what happens next in your story.

Jan said...

Diane, I loved remembering learning to read in 1st grade with Dick and Jane (and Sally). Your writing and reading really opened up a world for you. You have that God-given desire, which you fulfill with your sermons and in your writing here and probably elsewhere. I bet you'll write again; your talent is there and so is your love for it.

Like Fran, I like imagining young Diane, esp. with your pictures here.

Songbird said...

Ah, I, too am a Betsy-Tacy fan who has found a different kind of writing to do. Manuscript preaching is just a different kind of story-writing, I believe, a truth-telling in a form that is not just about reporting. Keep writing!

Mary Beth said...

I adore (present tense) Betsy Tacy!

RevDrKate said...

Oh yes, what they all said....and I think you write us wonderful stories all the time on your blog. About Scout and things at church and just all sorts of things....maybe the characters are not made up, but you tell stories, alive and vital and sparkly with the words you love.