by Cindy Green, Age 16, Canada
When I received the newsletter explaining the current situation of jaBlog!, I have to admit I wasn’t that surprised. Though an end to LTC hadn’t crossed my mind, I had noticed the decline in overall participation. (I confess I have contributed to the submission shortage). Acceptant as I was, the news deeply saddened me as I realized how much our dear Ms. Thomas (and Ms. Whitford) have guided me, despite the duration of my stay falling short of a mere two years.
I’ve been writing almost all my life. Out of sixteen years, I’ve known my fictional worlds for ten. I still remember the first time I purposefully sat down to write a story. After my patient mother helped me read through a children’s book, my six-year-old self had announced, “I’m going to do one of those!”
A pencil and pink notebook were momentarily retrieved, and the latter was promptly named “Cindy’s Offishul Story Book” scrawled across the front. Pride surged through my veins as I later read the poorly-spelled three-pager to my smiling parents. I still have that notebook, filled with other tales from my childhood’s imagination, when I wasn’t always stressing about the precise way the words should go. I wrote because I wanted to create.
When I discovered LTC two summers ago, I was ecstatic. I scribbled something up for the Junior Authors Short Story Contest, and was immensely proud of it. Then I started exploring the website, sifting through pages and pages of articles and advice on all aspects of writing. The amount of work and time you could put into a single ten-line poem astonished me. I thought about my submission, deciding from then on to strenuously improve myself.
Thrust into the world of contests, I began to write only for them. I didn’t write leisurely anymore. I was determined to strengthen my writing, and at the time, doing well in contests would prove to me that I could. I used Polly’s workbooks so often I memorized the steps and most of Ms. Whitford’s tips. I wrote, but I didn’t feel like I was writing. I remembered my eleven-year-old self seated at my dad’s laptop, typing away at a story I was co-writing with my best friend. My fingers couldn’t go fast enough. I would giggle madly as I wrote, surprising myself with each new sentence as if I were reading it for the first time. Why wasn’t that happening now? Why wasn’t I pausing to squeal delightedly? I was older, but I hadn’t changed that much. I still shrieked with glee at fireworks and twirled dizzily under the sunshine. What was wrong?
During the spring of 2015, I had an idea for my first ever real novel. Thinking about it gave me shivers, and I planned to start writing it as soon as the school year ended.
It never happened.
When summer began, I was swamped with contests I wanted to enter. My local library was hosting a teen contest; I couldn’t pass that up. Having had a short story accepted previously for the student contest, I wanted to try again. And nothing could hold me back from the brilliant idea I had for that month’s jaBlog! theme.
I trudged through that swamp, ignoring my novel idea. I wrote contest submissions as they came. It became a habit to get them sent in just before midnight the day of the deadline. It wasn’t until December of 2015 that I looked back on the personal writing goals I had submitted for that year and realized I had not completed a single one.
Oh. How many times had I told myself I would write because I loved to, not merely for contests? What were those all-too-familiar words from Ms. Whitford among the ones I had committed to memory? “Just write.” I could almost hear her sighing with exasperation, “Cindy, just…just write.”
I deliberately didn’t enter the poetry contest a friend sent me a couple months ago. I didn’t use the time to write, but I did keep track of the ideas that entered my empty head. Now I have a notebook of crazy ideas that I fully intend to say yes to. Every word.
“I just want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.” I don’t know who said these words, but I think they capture part of my existence. I must create, I must. Claude Monet said, “I must have flowers, always and always.” I like to say, “I must have words, always and always.”
What I’m most excited to say is that while writing this piece, I had to stop to catch my breath and shiver blissfully. Yes, I am sending this in just before midnight on the deadline. But I have written words that are my own. I have “offishully” created.
Cindy writes: “I’m a very emotional and sentimental person with a strong need to express my feelings. Words are the only things that understand me.”