Writing “career”

“Write something. You’re a writer. That’s what you should be doing with more of your time.” That thought keeps flitting through my mind today off and on, while I’m doing other things that are not writing.

When did I become a writer? I’m trying to remember. What was the first time I wrote anything? Let’s see…

PorkyPigStoryBookLate1940'sFirst book? I vaguely recall Porky Pig and Donald Duck among others, hard cardboard books with only a few thick pages but sturdy. They took a lot of handling without too much damage, thus could be read over and over. Mostly pictures, there weren’t many words in those.

Of course, most of mine were girl-oriented books. Cinderella and Snow White stories straight from the movies shared scenes with the Wicked Stepmother and the Wicked Queen. Seven dwarfs occupied many pages, there were lots of adventure scenes with seven of them! Not to mention all those cute animals, like Bambi, and Thumper. And Cinderella’s musical bluebirds.

SnowwhiteColoringBookSoon came crayons. Wonderful coloring books came with those crayons, with just a word or two at the bottom of most pages. First crayons? A one-layer box holding red and blue ones with sharp points, plus brown and black, purple, orange, yellow and green.

I learned early on that combining certain colors made other colors. Experimenting with red and blue to make purple, or yellow and blue to make green, for instance. Interesting what you could do with colors. But I couldn’t seem to make pink… there weren’t quite enough colors in that little box.

Bigger boxes containing multiple layers of crayons became a popular birthday or Christmas present with me. Some of the brand-new colors had fascinating names – Prussian blue, violet, burnt sienna, cerulean, Indian red – I couldn’t make those lovely hues with my old worn-out crayons, so for a little while coloring books sufficed for entertainment. And when all my book pages were used up, I simply started drawing my own pictures to color on the backs of mama’s old typing paper.

Well, you could make pretty pictures with crayons but they weren’t much good for true writing.  Like words – with crayons it was really just drawing words, drawing the individual letters. Capital letters and small letters, like D-O-G, and d-o-g, and D-o-g. And C-A-T, of course.

I discovered a knack for drawing, and drawing the alphabet. Big oval O’s, fat B’s and Q’s, triangular A’s, L’s and M’s.  Draw a letter, color it in, make polka dots, stripes or plaids with your crayons. Fun! (My teachers in later years didn’t think much of it when I decorated every corner and edge of my homework with such marvelous creations.)

But at age 2 or 3, there weren’t any real words yet. I was just beginning to get the idea of words as my parents read the little books aloud to Harold and me. Nose practically down on the page, I followed along word by word and probably asked a multitude of questions as we went. I’m sure mama was very glad when I learned to read for myself.

Crayons were supplemented with pencils eventually, I’m not sure what age I would have been. Kindergarten, maybe? I started kindergarten at age 3. Short yellow pencils with no erasers, no paper covers, and thinner than those first crayons, they were a bit harder to grasp for little fingers.

What did we do with those pencils? Scribbled mostly, I’m sure. We had to get the hang of this thing, writing without breaking the point off immediately. Too many trips to the pencil sharpener and your pencil was a goner.

Bound in a little pad, our writing paper wasn’t truly white, more of a pale tan, coarse and somewhat soft. A bit too easy to tear with a sharp pencil point, the pages were ruled with dark straight lines, narrow dotted lines in between.

Drawing was probably the first thing I attempted with my pencils, since the muscle memory in my fingers can almost feel the way I held my pencil as I shaded something in. An apple? A tree?

I love trees, always have. But trees are difficult for a little kid, it was probably something else I was copying from a picture book – the bare outline of a house, or a puppy, or a bowl. Copy from the book, then shade with the pencil held sort of sideways, or perhaps color with the crayons.

alphabet cardsAnd more alphabet letters, naturally, this time copied from a colorful chart hanging in the playroom.

There was no actual writing as such, not way back then. No letters were strung together yet to make words, but it wouldn’t be long. After two years of kindergarten, at age 5 I began first grade able to read and write letters, words, and even whole sentences!

My writing career was off to a good start… although for some years all I ever wrote were hand-made greeting cards for my mother.

Oh well. In the last few months I haven’t done as much writing as I used to. Perhaps it’s time for more.



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