How did I get started writing?
I’m often asked about my first experiences with writing, how I got started and so forth. I remember laboring over thank you notes for Christmas gifts when printing the individual letters was difficult. Writing was hard work! But the first time that ideas carried me away to a happy place while I wrote happened when I was about seven years old. I knew I was an expert on my subject and it was one I had plenty of opinions about: chickens.
The Chicken Story:
My job in the family was egg-gatherer. I knew which hens would peck me when I reached under them for an egg, and which would merely cluck and flap. I began to write about those chickens with the same tortured feeling as my first grade thank you notes, partly because writing was hard work, and partly because I hated those hens about as much as I loved them.
Then something amazing happened: I fell into that deep, still place where creativity occurs, and the chicken story was born. I’ll always remember that first joy of creating something wonderful. But I never saw the story again.
I’ve written millions of words since my chicken story. Until a few years ago, I put most of them into dark drawers — but I kept them all. The loss of the Chicken Story was always with me, however, because I could remember how I felt when I wrote it. In a very literal way it was the writing event in my life that got me started. It was the first time I remember entering that timeless, quiet place a person inhabits when creativity separates you from the rest of the world — a place I have deliberately tried to enter so many, many times since then.
There’s a happy ending to my chicken story. An online group from the little town in Alberta where I attended elementary school facilitated finding my lovely teacher. She claimed to be 82 when we talked, but I don’t believe it: aging does not occur in the memory. Most wonderful of all — she still had my chicken story!
Is the chicken story really as wonderful as my memory of it? Well . . . is the little hill beside your house at age seventeen the same hill you labored to climb when you were seven? Or fifty-seven?