Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote? I do.
When I was in the fifth grade, heavily influenced by multiple readings of The Secret Garden and The Little Princess and my own deep desire for an American Girl doll, I wrote a short story for class about a homeless girl who coveted a doll in a window at Christmastime. Naturally, that porcelain beauty was bound to sustain her more than bread or soup or central heat, so a kindly young mother who had lost her own daughter to illness made everyone’s dreams come true by adopting the child and buying her the damn doll. Appealing narrative for an 11-year-old with no disposable income, right?
In the seventh grade, I wrote my first long-form piece: a utopian fiction where a natural disaster conveniently swept all of the adults out of the picture and allowed me to populate a post-parent fantasy land with my peers. We foraged for food, crafted weapons, built shelters Island of the Blue Dolphins-style, and even relocated to the beach where I was able to introduce new characters from my class who had been presumed dead. Why? Because it took me months to write this thing and I was crushing on somebody else by then and needed a reason to write them into the story.
It was easier as a teenager to retreat into a world whose boundaries I could write and rewrite, whose conflicts were of my own devising and whose resolutions happily followed a linear narrative. It's easier as an adult, too. There's still joy in controlling a world when I’m writing – or trusting that when I’m not in control I’ll reach a suitable ending.
And at least the most embarrassing things I’ve ever written are behind me.