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How To Be A Twelve Year Old Writer

It’s August. You’re on the brink of thirteen, and it’s really far too late to do anything significant before you enter the infamous teen years, but you’re going to try anyway, just like you have in nearly everything else thus far. You’ve always written things—an illustrated book written on scrapped printer paper detailing your family at six, the beginnings of a short story collection based on a silly nickname that no one actually calls your father at eight, a poem here and there for little library contests at nine, a barely-begun screenplay just last year. Younger, you fancied being a novelist, but you also fancied being a surgeon, a teacher, the president.

You’ve just woken up when a strange burning prods your brain and there it is—the pseudonym you’ll cultivate into a character in years to come. With a nom de plume, well, now you’ve got to get serious. You launch yourself into this new enterprise, a habit you’ve developed since your brother was born, ignorant of the seemingly endless amount of embarrassment and regret this particular project will prove to bring. In the next few tornado days, you are overwhelmed and exhilarated by the massive influx of sudden inspiration you receive. You find your brain is stoking the burning. Lines, phrases, full paragraphs, even, are appearing in surprising situations. The first three sentences of your project show up in the middle of an ultimate frisbee match. You missed the pass in favor of catching the words in writing on the inside of your arm. Your mother chastises you for marking your skin—the ink will enter your bloodstream, hasn’t she told you that already? You wash it off after scribbling it on the front inside cover of a yellow, unused notebook.

You continue to scribble unsystematically all over the inside cover. While vacuuming your mother’s pillowcase free of any stubble that split off overnight, you realize that, since you’ve been jotting things down so often, you might as well make it a thing. You also receive your closing sentence from your mind-fire. That night, you scrawl in the bottom right corner, along the edge of the spiral binding, “i-pad (idea-pad) 1.” You sleep smiling that night, thinking it has a ring to it and you’re rather clever, aren’t you? Waking, your rested mind remembers that Apple debuted their iPad months prior.

In the months that come, you fill both inside covers – sorry, i-pads – with notes. You no longer have to vacuum pillowcases. Still you write. You begin outlining, plotting, naming characters, choosing fonts. You write about a hundred 5″ x 8″ pages, all painfully trite. After determining they are ready for release (with a reckless confidence only thirteen year olds have), you realize how silly a hundred page book would look. Always a problem-solver, you decide that instead of writing more and expanding your narrative, you will translate your story into an obscure, cool-looking language and offer it two for the price of one. You must’ve understood the concept of #aesthetic before it became a thing.

You release your first completed book. You’re proud for a few days but already planning for the next. The pride gets the better of the mind-fire and you, on another impulse, click the box that enables your book’s distribution on the largest online retailer in the world. You won’t feel that bite you in the ass for a few years yet.

The next is slotted on hold for a while when you move to boarding school. There seem to be whispers everywhere. It’s quiet and unusual and deafening and paralyzing. Over break, in your warm, noisy home, the mind-fire reawakens with courage. Perhaps they’ll think you’re impressive and interesting if you tell them about the book. You send out a mass email advertising your work, even throwing in a discount code. Your friends seem encouraging. When you arrive back, you realize that the whispers are about you and your narcissistic arrogance now. You wish you could unsend things.

In the following years, you continue writing. Under the influence of a passionate mentor, your focus turns away from lengthy fiction to compact poetry. You can’t even remember the last time you finished a full chapter of something. You grow. You leave the whispers to themselves. The book becomes something your best friend can bring up for a quick laugh at the most inconsiderate of times. You laugh too.

You’re preparing for some pretty important life things coming up, and you listen to a talk on maintaining your online presence. You google yourself. You are absolutely horrified that the book you wrote as a twelve year old is the first result on the page. You wish you were named Jane Doe. After contacting said retailer many times and meeting no luck, you resign yourself to the past. All possible damage control completed, you suddenly find that you haven’t written anything not required in months.

You move again, this time to a city where it is still and bustling and empty and full. Now knowing what death feels like, you are choking. You can’t recall the last time you finished a poem. The i-pads are no longer in use. You cannot help but panic slowly.

Seeing a Louis L’Amour quote spurs you to try harder. You take another bold move and start writing online again, hoping that you’ll build enough so that your site can migrate from the fifth page of results under your name to the top, overtaking your past.

You have turned on the faucet. You are still waiting for the water to flow.

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