My Writing History – The Early Years

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I figured that I should start this the way any story starts – from the beginning.

I have very little memory of actually writing before I was about eight or nine, but I do remember telling a lot of stories. Most of the stories I told were acted out in the form of my stuffed animals or my plastic dinosaur toys (I was obsessed with the Land Before Time series and consistently created my own stories from that world).

A lot of my childhood years were spent telling stories through my toys and acting them out with my sister. I don’t think I can remember a time in which I wasn’t telling some kind of story while playing. In fact, when games didn’t involve storytelling, I didn’t really enjoy it. Something in me just always wanted to tell stories in some form or another.

One of the things I remember most vividly was essentially acting out fanfiction of The Lion King for the longest time. This occurred through me acting out all the parts by myself, forcing my parents to act out other parts and directing them, or just using my toys to re-create narratives that were definitely not canonical. While this wasn’t ever written down, it was the beginning of my love of storytelling. I’m sure that if I had written any of those stories down, I could look back on it and cringe at how unoriginal I was.

Somewhere along the line, my mom decided to write down some of the stories I came up with. The picture here is a page my mom found of characters that I apparently created when I was younger. Not only do I not remember this, I also don’t remember how old I was when this happened. If this handwriting is actually mine, then I was probably at least seven or eight. The drawings are mine, but I have no idea what story this was for. It also goes to show you how easily I forgot to draw two other characters for my story. One of them doesn’t even have a name, but that’s still a thing that happens in my writing now (shh, spoilers).

As I got a little older, I began writing in two different forms of fanfiction. There was the story that I was constantly writing in my head, that no one ever knew about (maybe I told my sister, but I don’t remember), and there was the story that I made a huge effort to type out. The fanfiction I wrote in my head featured Mulan and Shang, probably because they were the only Chinese characters I had ever seen in some kind of story. Their story kept getting re-written whenever I was bored, and I added to them so much that all my genres were mixed together. Even now, at least a decade later, I can still remember some pieces of the fanfiction I wrote in my head. None of it was ever recorded because I was afraid that my parents would find it and think I was weird, so unfortunately, I don’t have a physical copy of how extensive this fanfiction was. I’m sure that if it was all written out, I’d have a few hundred pages of a Word doc to look back on.

When Disney Channel become a bigger part of my life, I started incorporating characters from their live action TV shows into my fanfiction. Thus, the second internal fanfiction began. Most of this second fanfiction revolved around High School Musical because I was so obsessed with that franchise. It’s almost embarrassing to explain how obsessed I was, but I knew so many ridiculous facts about the cast and the storylines. This made for great fanfiction, but a really strange mental space because I spent so much time creating and adding on to these stories in my head. My mom said that she would catch me moving my lips as if I was talking to someone while I was adding to my story, but I was just writing in my head. It also made it really hard for me to later stop creating these stories in my head because these characters that I had developed for the sake of my plot lines became such important friends to me. They were the people I talked to when I didn’t want to interact with actual human beings, so making the decision to say goodbye to them when I was about 12 or 13 was really difficult. But at the same time, I knew that I was getting to a point where I had to start actually writing stories because it couldn’t all stay in my head (I also knew that this was getting really weird and probably mentally unhealthy to some extent).

In between these internal fanfiction stories, I had a single fanfiction that I was working on, 100% inspired and taken from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. I loved that series so much that I took those characters and began writing a version of one of my favorite books that included a few original characters. This fanfiction didn’t really go anywhere because I spent about twelve pages talking about supplies for a trip that the characters were taking, and I think I bored myself with that. Once I managed to get past it, I wrote at least 50 or 60 pages worth of a story before giving up on it entirely.

This is one of the stories that I wish I had a copy of because it was the first time I tried to tell a story of my own, even though it was strictly fanfiction. I had put a lot of work into it, and I was really proud of some of the things I had come up with. Unfortunately, when my family moved from China to Hong Kong, one of the things we sold was the computer that the story was written on. I might have had a version of the story saved on a floppy disk somewhere, but I’m pretty sure that was either sold or thrown out. I have a vague memory of there being an annoying girl that I created, but there’s really not much else I can recall about that story.

Those were the strongest and most impactful iterations of my writing in my early years. I did have a few notebooks in which I started different stories, but I never continued on enough to finish anything. And when I got bored, I would end up tearing out the pages I had written so that I could use the notebook for something else later on. All of this means that I don’t have an actual record of the majority of my writing and storytelling from my younger years, so I can’t see the full extent to which I’ve grown over the past fourteen or so years that I’ve been a storyteller.

When my family moved out of China and into Hong Kong, something changed and I stopped writing fiction for a number of years. Instead, I switched to journaling, something that I still do sporadically now. The journaling took the place of all my fiction writing for at least two or three years. It was the first time I focused on non-fiction writing, and I think that it became a turning point for me. Through journaling, I discovered that I processed best by writing words on a page. Typing didn’t work for me, it had to be with an actual pen and paper. I think that this also taught me to understand internal monologue and personal motivations a lot better before I started writing more seriously.

This was a really weird point in my life where reading and fiction writing were very minimal. I don’t think I wrote much outside of journaling, which happened almost daily for at least a year. I also wasn’t reading much, which meant that I wasn’t inspired to write fiction. It was the end point of the majority of my early writing.

Now, I can look back at these experiences as crucial moments in my development as a writer. Internal fanfiction may not have been the healthiest for my mental state, but it taught me how to process stories and let my subconscious work on plot points. Writing normal fanfiction was my first glimpse into trying to produce my own story in a physical form, and it’s where a lot of writers start. After all, the best way to learn is by copying something you admire. My propensity for acting out stories with my toys has also affected the way I write now, which sometimes involves me acting out scenes in my room to make sure that it makes sense.

I know that my early experiences as a writer may not be entirely normal, but it started me on a journey that is still in the making over a decade later. It’s a process that I’ve heard a lot of other writers talk about before they started pursuing writing as a career. As this series of blog posts continues, I’m curious to hear how the journey started for other writers, including you.

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