“The smell of musty books lingered in the distance.”
That independent clause was the first one in the futuristic novel I began to write in fourth grade.
I’ve always gone through book genre phases. At that point, I had just progressed from beloved young adult science fiction novels — Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” and “Gathering Blue,” to name two — to more adult classics, such as George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm.” The idea of an alternate way of life captivated me so much that I daydreamed about it for the next few years. But I didn’t just want to create my path — I wanted to create someone else’s.
So, I started to write.
“8563” began in an antique bookshop, where Chloe Blackwood (which weirdly turned out to be the name of my high school French teacher’s daughter) conversed with an elderly man who spoke of an earlier time. I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I know she time-traveled to see the society for herself.
I got my friends in on the project, too. A more artistically talented friend drew the characters. Two other friends gave opinions about proposed storylines. We made a cover mockup, our names very fourth-grade pseudonyms, and debated who we’d thank in the acknowledgements.
What compelled me to write, I don’t know. My favorite subject was math until whenever we started talking about coordinate planes and imaginary numbers. I loved doing experiments in the science lab and had Bill Nye’s parody of “Love Shack” on lock. But I had always loved to read, and picking up that pen felt very … natural. (My grandmother was an author, so maybe it runs in the family.)
Why I stopped, I also don’t know. Maybe I became frustrated because I couldn’t think of the perfect way to get from my beginning to my ending. (Classic me.) Maybe I got bored. Maybe the others involved got bored. Regardless, I penned a few chapters, which are sitting in my closet in a box with other grade-school mementos I’ll likely look at next when I’m taking them somewhere else.
The story might be on a dusty bookshelf, but the line is not. I heard it when literary magazine staffs I was on talked about short story contents. I heard it when I was challenged to start news stories with a more creative, catchy opening and couldn’t think of one. I hear it every time I stare at my computer screen and realize that I have so many ideas I want to put into writing but have no idea where to start. (Now we all know where this post came from.)
Maybe it’s time to turn my mind off and my imagination on and type as I mentally create another world. Maybe not Chloe’s world, but someone else’s.