The first time I felt like a writer was in the third grade. My teacher would regularly assign creative writing projects—short ones of course because this was the third grade—and I would really let my imagination flow. I’m sure my stories didn’t make a lot of sense, but they were fun to craft. Over the next year or two, I came up with some interesting things for these assignments. Fourth and fifth grade may have also included some more of these assignment types, but I can’t remember for sure.
The next time I felt like a writer was in the sixth grade. We were assigned to write an autobiography, but not just any autobiography. One that went from birth to the present, but then also 20 years into the future. They challenged us to picture our future. And it had to be like 20-25 pages long. This was a huge writing assignment. And I did a great job. I got an A. Even though I had no idea what I wanted my life to look like, or my future partner, or my wedding, or anything, I made stuff up. What I came up with didn’t end up being anything like what actually happened, but I was 12 and had no idea what my life goals were or would be (most of them are still murky at age 48).
The third time I felt like a writer, I was in the eighth grade and my English teacher taught us a journalism unit. I didn’t really know anything about journalism before that, but learned so much in that class. Our local newspaper was The Washington Post, and had no end of quality material to draw from. We had to read plenty of articles, but also we were to write them. It was the first time I ever had to direct my writing in a way that didn’t come naturally. The short, punchy news articles—and shorter, punchier first paragraphs—weren’t my forte, but it was fun to practice different styles of writing.
The fourth time I felt like a writer, I was in the second half of my high school career. It might have been senior year, but it could have been junior year. I remember sitting in the library in the mornings with my friend Dennis. We both had Study Hall first period, if memory serves, and I would often work on my math homework. He would read books in French, such as The Stranger. But sometimes I would write. For fun. Other than keeping a sporadic diary when I was younger, this was really the first optional, “for fun” writing I ever did. I wrote bad poetry, the beginnings of stories that I had no idea where to go with, and just whatever fiction popped into my head. The fact that I did it because I felt like doing it made me feel like a writer. My (older) sister read some of it and said very nice things, which made me feel extremely good.
Now, there were plenty of writers in my family. I’m sure I don’t know about all of them. But there were many in number. My paternal grandfather was an actual writer, like for a job. He taught English at a Junior College, but also wrote books, articles, and other things. The letters he wrote were masterpieces. I also found some writing that his mother had written, my great grandmother who never really had a proper job but was an educated and intelligent woman (who lived to be 103). She wrote a story in my grandfather’s baby book. And it was just… stellar. Such creativity. Then there was my paternal grandmother’s father. While he was an architect and not a writer by trade, he was still a writer. His dry wit just bowled you over, in letters he wrote, chronicles he shared, and pictures he painted with words. So, I come by writing honestly. But I doubt I would live up to their standards. Still, it gives me something to strive for.
That brings me to the final time I felt like a writer, which has persisted since. And that would be when someone first published my writing, and soon thereafter someone paid me—albeit very little—for my writing. That was when I first had a blog at our local newspaper’s website in 2008. And then that led me to write for GeekDad in 2009 and then help found GeekMom in 2010. When sources external to my own family deemed my writing decent enough to be consumed by the general public and, better yet, paid me for it, it was very meaningful to me.
Since then, myriad people and organizations have paid me to write. I’ve written personal accounts, reviews, humorous website product copy (*cough* ThinkGeek *cough*), factual articles, informational posts, interviews, and more. And I’ve written books. Two of them all by myself. And a few people have bought them and then told me how wonderful they were.
So, hi. I’m Jenny Bristol, Writer. Now and forever.