When You Write Young (Writing 101, Day 17)

Today’s Writing 101 assignment involves digging into your drafts and work with something uncompleted.  My burst of inspiration brought me to the stack of old journals in my closet.  Paging through the woes of my high school self, I couldn’t help but think of a post I had written several months ago.  In Writing 101, we’ve been doing a great deal of writing (go figure!), which has me thinking a lot about what it means to be a writer.  I think that this post lines up well with what I’ve been learning as a writer and blogger.  Since I’m short on time today (I’ll be posting about why later this week), I thought I’d share that post.

Here we go…

It’s amazing to look back and see how you grow as a writer.  But more on that later.  First, a story.

One of the traditions of my high school’s marching band was giving personalized gifts to the graduating seniors at the end of the year indoor concert.  After my final season, one of my good friends bestowed upon me a notebook covered in cats.  He offered the following explanation: “We’re giving you a journal because some things don’t belong on the internet.”

Recently, I hung out with my old high school buddies.  Sitting around a bonfire reminiscing about times that we really don’t miss, the marching band senior gifts came up.  I had completely forgotten the incident.  It was one of my fellow graduates who remembered my gift and the above explanation.  How he recalled such a specific quote, I have no idea.  But I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

When you start blogging at the age of fifteen, you make some blunders.  And, often times, those blunders affect people.  Enthralled at the freedom of calling a corner of the internet my own, I was not always wise with what I shared on my blog.  (Mind you, those were back in the Blogger days.)  Although I always tried to be careful not to give names–anonymity is really important when publishing personal information–keeping my drama off the internet sometimes didn’t happen.  What’s worse… keeping that drama away from the eyes of my friends was an impossibility.

Often times, I’d turn to my blog to express myself in times of conflict with friends.  I’d vent a bit, then go on with my life.  But then my friends would find out and that’s when things got messy.

At the time, I didn’t think much of my senior gift.  In fact, I thought so little of it that I didn’t even remember it happening.  But it’s amazing what hindsight can do.  I now see that there was a bit of a barb to the gesture–that my friend was being funny, but also critical.  He didn’t like what I had to say in such a public arena and used the situation as an opportunity to get me to express myself in a more healthy, private place.  (The sad thing is, I didn’t take the hint.)

As much as I hate to admit it, that friend was right.  Four years later, I agree with his statement wholeheartedly.  Some things DON’T belong on the internet.  Self-expression is a wonderful thing, but what one sees as nothing but blowing-off-steam soon blows out of proportion.  What is meant as a personal rant suddenly becomes incredibly public.  There’s a line and, if you’re not careful, you’ll slip across without even noticing.

I’ve grown a great deal as a blogger over the years.  I wish I can say I skipped the rough patches, that all was smooth sailing, and that I never crossed the line (excuse me for all the cliches)… but that’s all a lie.  When you write young, you make mistakes.  Looking back, I regret the hurt I caused my friends.  But what’s done is done.  Anything I do now can’t change what is cemented in the past.

The only thing you can do is grow from your mistakes, watch your words and best of all, learn to love your journal just as much as you love your blog.  And never, ever, stop writing.

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.  Find my original post here.

On the Shelf: Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Of my most recent library haul, this was my favorite.

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Summary from GoodreadsDuring a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating.  New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can’t help but be drawn back into the land of the living.

My Thoughts:

This was one of the most poigniant YA novels I’ve read in a while.  Wood beautifully captures the awkwardness, messiness, and pain of being a teenager without making me roll my eyes once.  So often, YA protagonists are either unrealistically shallow or unrealistically intelligent.  Wood’s are somewhere in the middle.

Wildlife is all about discovery.  In a way, it’s the story we all go through as teens.  It’s about finding a way through the messiness of life and figuring out who you are.  Her main characters are beautiful and complex individuals that captured my heart.  Their stories highlight different aspects of the teenage experience that felt authentic.

Until recently, Syb had never been popular and she was always okay with that.  But when her aunt scores her a modeling gig, her face plastered on a billboard becomes her ticket to the cool table.  Suddenly, the most popular boy in her grade likes her, she’s the center of attention, and her childhood best friend is right by her side, urging her to take advantage of the opportunity.  Deep down, she knows that popularity and the behavior surrounding it just isn’t her.  But, at the same time, she really likes the popular boy.  Stuck between two worlds, she has to decide what really matters–being with the cool kids or being true to herself.

Then, there’s Lou.  Dear, dear Lou.  Devastated by the death of her boyfriend, Lou is still in deep mourning when we meet her at the beginning of the novel.  She has no desire to engage with the world.  She attends therapy, but puts on a show to make them think she’s getting better.  She’s empty inside.  All her thoughts go to the one she lost.  When all her friends go spend a term in Paris, she decides to transfer schools just in time for their wilderness survival term.  Lou steps up to the challenge, finding solace in grueling hikes and beautiful scenery.  Forced to live in close-quarters with a handful of girls, she can’t help but become slowly involved in their lives.

Wildlife isn’t the most gripping novel out there, but what strikes me most is its honesty.  Wood poses questions and gives realistic, truthful answers.  Is popularity worth it?  When is it right to start having sex?  What is it like to lose a loved one?  What does friendship look like?

The best part?  It’s all set at camp!

Sample Quote:

“The trouble is that keeping [memory] alive, giving it all that energy, will, determination, stops me being alive in the present.  I’m not stupid.  I don’t need Esthers and Merills to tell me that is not a brilliant way for a sixteen-year-old to live.  I know what you would say.  You’d say, get on with it, Lou m’Lou.  There’s a lot more to do than thinking about me.  Don’t hang out somewhere that isn’t anymore.  Don’t haunt the landlost past, you’d say… I’ve written you a hundred unsent letters.  Maybe if I keep writing and sealing them, they can sit somewhere safely.  Our story is a one-sided correspondence–I know that’s oxymoronic–and I can allow that to be it.  I can put a lid… I can just go there sometimes… I can know it’s there, safely; we are there.”

You Will Like This Book If: You enjoy Young Adult fiction, wilderness, camp life, and coming of age stories.

When you write young

It’s amazing to look back and see how you grow as a writer.  But more on that later.  First, a story.

One of the traditions of my high school’s marching band was giving personalized gifts to the graduating seniors at the end of the year indoor concert.  After my final season, one of my good friends bestowed upon me a notebook covered in cats.  He offered the following explanation: “We’re giving you a journal because some things don’t belong on the internet.”

Recently, I hung out with my old high school buddies.  Sitting around a bonfire reminiscing about times that we really don’t miss, the marching band senior gifts came up.  I had completely forgotten the incident.  It was one of my fellow graduates who remembered my gift and the above explanation.  How he recalled such a specific quote, I have no idea.  But I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

When you start blogging at the age of fifteen, you make some blunders.  And, often times, those blunders affect people.  Enthralled at the freedom of calling a corner of the internet my own, I was not always wise with what I shared on my blog.  (Mind you, those were back in the Blogger days.)  Although I always tried to be careful not to give names–anonymity is really important when publishing personal information–keeping my drama off the internet sometimes didn’t happen.  What’s worse… keeping that drama away from the eyes of my friends was an impossibility.

Often times, I’d turn to my blog to express myself in times of conflict with friends.  I’d vent a bit, then go on with my life.  But then my friends would find out and that’s when things got messy.

At the time, I didn’t think much of my senior gift.  In fact, I thought so little of it that I didn’t even remember it happening.  But it’s amazing what hindsight can do.  I now see that there was a bit of a barb to the gesture–that my friend was being funny, but also critical.  He didn’t like what I had to say in such a public arena and used the situation as an opportunity to get me to express myself in a more healthy, private place.  (The sad thing is, I didn’t take the hint.)

As much as I hate to admit it, that friend was right.  Four years later, I agree with his statement wholeheartedly.  Some things DON’T belong on the internet.  Self-expression is a wonderful thing, but what one sees as nothing but blowing-off-steam soon blows out of proportion.  What is meant as a personal rant suddenly becomes incredibly public.  There’s a line and, if you’re not careful, you’ll slip across without even noticing.

I’ve grown a great deal as a blogger over the years.  I wish I can say I skipped the rough patches, that all was smooth sailing, and that I never crossed the line (excuse me for all the cliches)… but that’s all a lie.  When you write young, you make mistakes.  Looking back, I regret the hurt I caused my friends.  But what’s done is done.  Anything I do now can’t change what is cemented in the past.

The only thing you can do is grow from your mistakes, watch your words and best of all, learn to love your journal just as much as you love your blog.  And never, ever, stop writing.