How to Become a Writer, Part 1 (Birth through 7th grade)

First,  you  must  experience  an early  trauma.  It  can  be  as  dramatic  as  a  kidnapping,  a  house fire,  or  abuse  from  a  trusted [img_assist|nid=841|title=Aimee Labrie|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=104|height=121]adult or  something  as  simple  as being an only child to an absent-minded  mother.  The  degree  of trauma  doesn’t  matter;  it  just helps  that you experience  it and tuck it away in the sleeve of  your heart  to unpack  later. This  trauma must happen before  the  age of  four, so that it can imprint on your still-forming self.

Next,  you must  feel  a  sense  of loneliness  and  isolation  from others.  This  sensibility  can  be manufactured  if   necessary.  You can force yourself  to hide in the closet under  your mother’s winter coats  for hours on end. You can give away all of  your toys to the  rowdy  neighbor  boys  and then  stare  out  the  living  room window,  feeling  sorry  for  yourself. The critical thing is to somehow disconnect from others, but also  from  yourself,  so  that  you can start thinking about your life in  third  person  as  in:  “The  girl played  alone  in  the  basement with  her  broken  porcelain  doll while  her mother baked a cake and  didn’t  offer  her  any  of   the batter.”

Now  you  must  start  reading books  that  are  too  old  for  you, preferably  books  about  misunderstood,  sensitive  girls.  Not Nancy  Drew,  in  other  words. Nancy  Drew  could  set  any potential writer toward the exact opposite  direction  away  from dreaminess  and  into  practicality and sensible, rubber soled shoes.

Daydream  in  school.  Make  up entire  conversations  between you  and  people  you’ve  never met—movie  stars, Austrian  royalty,  jockeys.  Invent  a  plausible situation or an implausible situation, but be  sure  that  you  come out on top in the end.

In junior high, stumble upon the poetry  of   Sylvia  Plath and believe for a time that you are the only person your age to discover this  dark,  tortured  genius.  Do not think of  yourself  as a cliché (that  will  come  later  in  writing classes where  the word  “cliché” is spit out with great venom during workshops). No, you are thirteen  and  the  world  is  horrible and you will never fall in love or kiss  a  boy  and  no  one  understands you and for God’s sake, all you  asked  your mother was  for one  pair  of  Gloria  Vanderbilt jeans, is that too much?

Write  about  your  tortured  life every  day  in  your  brand  new Hello  Kitty  diary,  a  gift  from your grandmother who lives far away and seldom visits, but who gave  you  your  first  real  book about  lonely  girls,  Rebecca  of Sunnybrook  Farm.  Make  sure  to lock  your  diary  tight  and  slip  it between the box spring and mattress—this  secret  thing  that’s  all your own.
Aimee LaBrie received her MA in writing from DePaul University in 2000 and her MFA in fiction Penn State in 2003. Her collection of short stories, Wonderful Girl, won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction in 2007 and was published by the University of North Texas Press.Other stories of hers have been published in Minnesota Review, Pleiades, Quarter After Eight, Iron Horse Literary Review, and numerous other literary journals. Her short story, "Ducklings" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Pleiades.

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