“The Writer Within” By: Ethan Chen

The day that changed my life forever started off as a typical school day. It was autumn; the season of change; the weather grew cold, the leaves turned a bright crimson, and school—what every kid in their right mind dreaded—was beginning. After arriving at our elementary school at 8:40, we were ushered into the classroom, where we took off our coats, unzipped our backpack, took out our materials, and got ready for class. The teacher, a bright eyed middle-aged woman, greeted us and jotted down the warm-up on a worn down whiteboard. She titled the warm-up “Creative Writing Prompt.” Although on the outside my face bore no emotion, inwardly I groaned. When teachers say creative, to me it seems like they are restricting our writing more than inspiring it. However, this was the beginning of school, so I still had hopes for this year. Maybe it wouldn`t be all that bad, I thought.
I opened my new journal, turned to the first page, and looked at the prompt on the board. Scribbled in dry erase marker were the following words: ‘You find a genie inside a magical bottle. What would you do? What would you wish for?’
Easy enough, I thought. I stared hard at my blank page and tried to stir up something imaginative. I slowly started to write: how I find a bottle in the bottom of a sewer, which turns out to be magical. I begin to pick up speed. I write how I find the genie inside the bottle, who says he will give me infinite wishes, how I am whisked off to an exotic kingdom filled with sorcerers, jinn, and raining fireballs, how a cloaked figure comes out of nowhere and starts attacking me with magical lightning bolts, and how I am marked as the Chosen One (chosen for what I wasn`t sure yet. At that point I just thought it sounded cool). At that moment, I was probably writing a sentence every second.
By the time writing time was over, I had already written three pages of my story. I looked back at my writing, feeling satisfied.
Well, I told myself. That wasn`t that bad.
The next day, I continued my story. Once again, I was sucked into the world I was creating entirely from my fifth grade imagination. For another two months, I continued writing my story. Soon it evolved to become much more than “another genie story”: It came to be that the genie actually wasn`t the most important part of the story! There was magic, fights, even intrigue.
Throughout the writing process, I grew as a writer, and my characters grew with me too. I soon switched the story from my point of view and decided writing it from another person`s point of view. While I was developing as a writer, my mind`s eye of the character changed. He went from being a bold, arrogant protagonist to a caring, understanding friend.
Sometime after writing my story, I reread the whole thing. For once I wasn`t editing it; I was just sitting down with a cup of hot chocolate and enjoying what had taken me months to create. Halfway through the story, long after I had drained the last bit of hot chocolate, I realized something. It had been nagging at me for a while, and once I had read my story, I suddenly realized what was bothering me. It was that my story, even after all my hard work, all my character development, all the nights I sat in bed creating a plot, all of my work still wasn`t enough. The story just fell flat. While reading it, I realized it wasn`t what I had wanted it to be when I had envisioned it in the beginning.
I was feeling sulky until I read the last few chapters I had written. I was stunned; I could literally see my writing improvement. At that point I realized that maybe all that time I had written my story hadn`t gone to waste.
I learned from this experience that only through hard work can you write a book. It`s not just about making awesome fight scenes, or making your book the next Hunger Games. Although my story from fifth grade never got published, and it probably never will, I learned so much from writing it. I learned how to connect with your characters, how to edit your work frequently, how to come up with a plotline before you write the first 100 pages and decide you want to change it; I learned all of those things. But most importantly, I learned to have fun when writing. Writing is sort of like sparking a fire: in the beginning, it`s hard to get it started. But once you light the spark, your writing will take off. Once the fire is ablaze, it is hard to quench it. In the same way, once you start writing, especially about something you care about, it is hard to set down your pencil, even if your mom is yelling at you to come and eat dinner. Yes that has happened before: multiple times.