From what I can remember, I think I stopped writing for about four years before I finally started again. It was all due to a class I decided to take as an elective in my junior year of high school.
My homeschooling program offered a one-semester Creative Writing class, and I decided to take it because I knew that I liked creative writing in the years before when I had it as a mandatory class under a different homeschooling program. It had also been such a long time since I had actually written creatively, I thought it would be an easy class to get back into something I knew I used to love.
Around the same time that I took that class, I found the community known as BookTube. The first person I found in that community is still one of my greatest sources of inspiration and motivation - Kat O'Keefe, known as Katytastic on BookTube. She talked heavily about what she was reading and writing, and she introduced me to NaNoWriMo. But before we get to that part, let's backtrack a little to my creative writing class.
The creative writing class focused a lot on craft and the nature of writing. There were a lot of little exercises, and then a few assignments that really required me to be creative in re-telling a story or coming up with something new on my own. In that time, I wrote a weird re-telling of Cinderella, I did a continuation of an Edgar Allen Poe short story, and I wrote a short story that I'm still incredibly proud of today.
I was lucky to have an incredibly supportive creative writing teacher. For the life of me, I cannot remember her name, but she made a huge difference in me being a writer. She was very encouraging with my work and told me to keep pursuing creative writing, even if it was only for leisure.
When I heard about NaNoWriMo from Kat, something in me decided that it would be a great decision to participate. The kicker was that I heard about NaNoWriMo on October 25th, and NaNoWriMo starts on November 1st. All I needed was an idea and someone to kick me in the butt. That's where my creative writing teacher comes into one of the most important decisions I've made so far in my life. I asked her if it was a good idea for me to participate in the month-long writing spree, and she said that it was a good idea if I thought that I could do it.
NaNoWriMo TL;DR - 50,000 word novel in November.
With that encouragement, I came up with three ideas and three crappy outlines. I chose one and ran with it, super ready to start NaNoWriMo 2014. That marked the first of five years that I participated in NaNoWriMo, and it's still one of the best decisions I made as a writer.
Being in a community of people who were also writing a novel during November made me feel so supported and so motivated. There were hundreds of thousands of people around the world who were also trying to achieve this goal of a 50,000 word draft. It was one of the most amazing experiences I had, and at the end of November, I was determined to do it again the next year. I came out of November 2014 with 50,309 words and nowhere near a finished draft, but I had started a novel.
It took me several months to find the motivation to finish writing that first book. I think it actually took me almost a full year or more before I decided that it was time. That book, now named Venture, was completed with 78,793 words.
Cue NaNoWriMo 2015, when I decided that I would participate again and this time, do it in a more timely manner. I registered early, wrote an outline, and worked on doing everything I thought I needed before starting November. Once again, I got to the end of the month having won for the second time, and with a draft that was nowhere near done. This time though, it only took a few months for me to decide it was time to jump back in and finish writing the story.
I finished my high school years with two novels under my belt and the decision to become a writer. Neither of the drafts were very good (trust me, I've gone back to read them and couldn't stop cringing), but writing these two books had given me a taste of what it would be like to write novels for the rest of my life. Being part of the community of NaNoWriMo writers was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and for the first time, it was really plausible that I could become a writer.
In this time, I also wrote a few other short stories, namely New Year's Eve and In My Mind. There's a list of all the drafts I've written and completed since I decided to become a serious writer, so you can check that out if you're interested in what I've written and when I wrote them.
My high school writing years were the reason why I decided to go into journalism in college, and it was when I decided that I wanted to be a writer "when I grow up." This was where I fell in love with the process of coming up with a story, getting to know characters, and writing the story. Seeing the words appear on the screen of my laptop was so much fun, and I loved the experience of telling a story. They weren't necessarily good stories, but they got me writing and pushed me to pursue something that I've only grown more passionate about as time goes on.
High school was when I started dedicating time to learning about the craft of writing and trying to apply it to my own writing. I went through a phase of finding quotes about writing and writing all of them out for my bedroom wall. It was a huge change in my life, and it started me on a path that I never actually thought I would be on.
These two years prepared me for what I planned to do in college, and it made me want to keep as close to this kind of annual routine as I could possibly manage. Most importantly, it introduced me to NaNoWriMo and pushed me to finally write a novel after years of fan-fiction and telling myself that I would do it one day. These two years showed me what it was like to actually get the words out and tell a story from beginning to end, no matter how bad it was or how long it took me.
Closing off this time in my life, I'm curious to know what you found yourself passionate about in high school?