graphogenesis (græf ə ʤe ni sɪs) : 1) The beginning of writing, literally; 2) A word I’m pretty sure I just made up. Microsoft Word doesn’t like it, anyway, but it doesn’t like half the things I write. [Following added later] Actually, Google doesn’t seem to have any dictionary results for it. I suspect it’s a word applied in archaeology and linguistics. So apparently I didn’t make it up, though I probably fudge the pronunciation. When I say it, I hear “graf-uh-je-nee-sis” in my head, so I’m sticking by it.
Since I can remember (and apparently before that), I’ve had a fascination with words, especially the written word. Legend has it that I would sit at our family’s top-of-the-line 8088 with that amazing black and yellow display and, at the tender age of three, lovingly tap out the words I knew how to spell. It wasn’t many, I’ll grant you, but when your three year old does this, it’s apparently a little strange.
Less strange was my ability to tell stories. What toddler/preschooler doesn’t babble to themselves half the time? But this, too, I took to a new level. I would sit in my room with my tape recorder/player and my stuffed animals, and listen to storybook after storybook on tape, reading along since I had most of the accompanying books. Then, when I got bored, I’d look at books whose stories I couldn’t quite decipher, and make up whatever I wanted to fit the pictures. After getting bored with that, I’d act out all the crazy fun things going through my head with my stuffed animals, usually winding up napping under a pile of them after a while. (Yup, 5-time gold medalist—I was a champion napper.)
A couple years later, I’d finally progressed to really being able to scribble mostly-decipherable graphite marks on that awesome lined paper that you get in kindergarten and first grade. It was time to start my opus. Oh yes, even at six (and probably before that), I had the ego of an artist, specifically of a writer. My stories were going to enthrall and inspire, and they were going to do it well, dammit! (Or rather, darn it. I did not know such naughty words at such an age, despite my black hole tendencies when it comes to picking up words.)
I started by writing stories about these two characters that stuck in my head. There was a pair of kids; a boy and a girl, and they usually wound up getting in fights and patching things up. (My writing was the epitome of emotional drama. For better or for worse, it’s something that has rather stuck.) As I’m writing this, actually, I realize that those two characters have the first initials of myself and my boyfriend, right down to whose first initial is whose. Apparently, I had somewhat latent ESP, too.
As I recall, my six-trait writing assessments turned out average, at least in terms of content (otherwise known as ideas) and organization. My voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions unsurprisingly fared slightly better. As I grew and gained general life experience, the other two tended to catch up. I know, I know; how much life experience can you possibly gain by the time you’re twelve? I choose to think that every little step is important in becoming who you are. And I kept on reading. My fascination with the printed word is, after all, a two-way street, and every time I read a new book, I learned. I tried to figure out how to develop my style and improve so that people would actually want to read what I wrote. I was met with success at times. Others… well, my recycling bin was happy, at least.
Long about seventh grade, I discovered two things. The first was fanfiction. Yes, yes, I know it has the reputation of being all smut and no substance, but I’d argue that smut can have substance, and I can prove beyond any doubt that smut is not all there is to fanfiction; not by a long shot. And there was no way in hell that I was going to write smut in seventh grade. I knew what sex was: an icky, icky thing that nobody should write about, let alone want to read unless they wanted babies. The second thing I discovered was manga, and yes, I will apply the same arguments against all manga being smut and/or fluff as I did to fanfiction. Put two and two together to figure out what came of these discoveries.
It’s hard to develop your own characters, after all. They don’t always do what you want, and even when they do, it’s not always what you thought it was going to be. It was much easier to practice with someone else’s characters. I still had that whole angsty drama thing going on, though, and plot, now that I was working on longer stories? “It needed work” is putting it somewhat kindly. But the artist inside me was convinced that I was still writing these deep, dark, cathartic, universal truths, and they were mine and mine alone, and life was painful… Yadda, yadda. Not quite goth, not quite depressed. Just an introverted, occasionally bullied, hormonal teen girl with a rich fantasy life and a good creative outlet. Honestly, though, I did (and still do) write fiction better when I’m upset unless I’m writing humor or romantic fluff (and even then, the latter is not always a sure thing). Soon enough, I’d accumulated several 5-subject notebooks full of stories, more than half of which should never see the light of day.
That’s pretty much how my writing continued through high school, even though I did start realizing that I had an inflated ego when it came to prose. When you ask for critiques on fanfiction.net, and the good writers take you seriously, you tend to get knocked down a peg or two. Still, I won’t say I’m the pinnacle of humility. I still get tetchy when I get criticized, though much less so when I deem the criticism warranted and actually take it into account. It certainly helped when I went through an emotionally rocky relationship in high school, though. Even when someone said, “Hey, you really need to work on _____”, I took that and poured my heart and soul into my next story. It is probably in large part due to being able to lose myself in words that those years weren’t as miserable as they could have been. (Note to my high school friends: you are great and my angst was not your fault. I refer you to the paragraph above about being hormonal and teenaged.)
It wasn’t until I went through the transition from high school to college, underwent a general transformation including losing a lot of weight for health reasons, and gained several more wonderful friends (and started an actual healthy relationship with the boyfriend) that I realized that even in happiness, I still had words pouring out of me, and that I should write them down. So, I did. Some, I posted as Facebook notes. Others, I just kept in a file in my documents folder on my laptop. A few months ago, a relative who I had just met (my extended family is, in a word, expansive) told me I should keep it up. And then my boyfriend suggested a blog, and well, here we are.
It’s probably a typical story, but it’s important to me because it’s my story, my graphogenesis. Motivation is not something to be underestimated, and over the years, no matter what I’ve gone through, no matter what’s changed or stayed the same (including my writing style), the drive to write (and read!) has been a constant, a source of comfort, and something I hope I never lose.