I started writing stories for myself when I was about seven. I know that this is true because I found a couple of them recently. I wrote them because I wanted to imagine myself differently - not as the nerdy, lonely kid that I was, but the much prettier and well-beloved princess of a magical land. I carried those perfect worlds around inside of me, to live in when I could.
I kept writing stories because I discovered I was good at it, or at least people told me I was. I won young authors' contests, and essay competitions, and the English scholarship to my high school. I had a Talent, and I was raised to believe that if you had been given a talent, you had an obligation to use it. Writing wasn't the talent that I wanted - I desperately wished to be able to draw, or, failing that, to have the talent of being popular. But it was something that was mine.
Except then, for years, all I did was fail. There was the yearly ritual where I would submit things to the literary magazine in high school, and in college, only to receive rejection after rejection. (I do not, it seems, have a Talent for poetry.) In law school, I began a novel, and showed the first chunk of pages to someone. His comment was, "No one will ever want to read that. You're wasting your time."
I believed all the rejections. There were just so many of them. I was a smart person, and I knew that if enough people told you you weren't any good at something, well, you probably weren't. Vocab 10, imagination 3. That ain't it, kid. So, for years, I didn't write at all. Or, I did, but it was only academic articles. No fiction, no poetry - bad or otherwise. I stopped imagining, stopped so hard and so completely that if you had reminded me of all the years that I did write stories, I would have thought that you were the one making things up.
I don't know why I started again. I remember getting the idea in the shower, and the story was so insistent that I sat at my desk, half-dried and shivering, wrapped in a towel and my hair dripping on the page as I wrote it down. I don't know why this time, when I get rejections that range from form letters that tell me my story wasn't what they were looking for to the personal rejections that enumerate all the very specific ways in which my story was not what they were looking for, my reaction is to pick up the pen and keep writing, rather than to stuff the manuscript, and that part of my life, into a drawer.
I don't know why I believe that I can do this, that there are stories that I want to tell, and that I am the only one who can tell them. I like to think that it goes back to that seven year old girl who imagined things, and carried worlds around inside her.