Summer is winding down. Dusk comes early and the nights are growing colder. Facebook is saturated with back-to-school photos. The August page of our calendar is nearly filled and is begging to be flipped to clean, fresh September. These last weeks are a mini-era of final excursions, hitting the last few items on the summer bucket list, meeting with the friends we’ll miss, and frantically preparing for the next year of our lives. The world is changing again.
I love the transition to autumn. The dawning of my favorite season brings fresh air, new colors, and clarity of mind. The sun-soaked days of summer can feel unreal, like arriving in a hazy dreamland bursting with sounds and activities and something happening around every corner. We look outward at everything going on around us. Then autumn comes and the world slows and quiets; the sultry humidity breaks into sobering, crisp air. We begin to take a hard, honest look inward once more. We care for those things the busyness of summer forgets about, and prepare ourselves for the dark, trying weeks of winter ahead.
Autumn puts me in a real writing mood. Growing up in the country, there was always something about the chilly mornings and frosted fields and leaf-strewn forest paths that got my imagination whirring. For as long as I can remember, I’ve associated falling leaves with budding creativity. I first remember my passion for writing starting when I was about five. I got this brilliant idea into my head that I could make a book just like the ones that my parents read me. It was a breakthrough, a revelation! It would be the best book ever, only…I didn’t know how to write. So, doing what any five-year-old would do, I gathered some sheets of scrap paper, drew a bunch of pictures with Crayola markers, told my mom what I wanted to say on each page, and had her write down my words for me (thanks, Mom!). A few staples later, and voila! Rachel’s Special Book was born, and my life has never been the same since.
The era of marker-and-staple books came to an end when I was introduced to one of the highlights of my entire schooling experience: Young Authors. Every year from the first day of school I would begin anticipating the moment when my teacher would announce that it was again time for the Young Authors competition, when each of us would write a short book. The best author in the class would get to go to a conference to meet real, live writers. Amazing! What was even better was that my teachers magically had the most prized possession in the world: little, blank hardcover books, perfectly bound and just the right size to fit on a shelf with all of your other books. They were so professional, so different than the materials I was accustomed to. I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than the moment each year when the beautiful blank book was placed in my hands, just waiting to be filled with my stories and pictures.
As I got older, the habit of illustrating my books faded away. I wrote my first few chapter books, usually in journals or composition notebooks, and enjoyed spending blustery Saturdays in my cozy blue chair creating characters and plots. During my middle school years, my writing began to shift from focusing on the fabricated and fantastical to reflecting themes from my own life. Writing became a way to make sense of the world around me. By exploring real-life situations in a fictional context, I learned how to deeply think about and analyze things that I was going through in a more objective way. I still do that, and it’s been quite healing during many different times of my life. While I don’t base characters on my friends (that takes all the fun out of creating characters), I write about people, and everything I know about people was learned from interacting with someone in the real world at some point. This is probably why I became more reluctant to share my writing once I hit this stage of life—sharing my writing became sharing a part of me and my life, and themes from the real things I had gone through, both the good and the bad.
During high school, I completed my first novel. Being able to write faster through typing on a laptop was a huge plus, and having a friend who was also writing a novel gave me the encouragement I needed to keep moving forward. I remember spending whole weekends wrapped up in my book, and staying up until midnight typing away. It was a fun project, as both a tribute to my then-favorite writer, Jane Austen, and a satire on the high school life in which I lived. As someone who was eager to move out and start college, writing this book gave me something to look forward to every day, and writing a satire made me find humor and irony in daily life that I might not have appreciated before.
College brought four years of my writing getting pushed to the side. When all of your time is spent writing papers, the last thing you want to do in your spare time is get back on your computer and write some more. My summer in Scotland did bring me the joy of a creative writing class and meeting some friends who also loved crafting stories and thought about writing as much as I did.
Last fall Stephen and I moved into a flat in Oxford for two months. He had recently discovered the joy of creative writing, and over those weeks we spent countless hours at the kitchen table or at Georgina’s coffee shop with notebooks and pencils in hand. He read the book that I wrote in high school, and thanks to his enthusiasm and encouragement I’m planning to self-publish it this fall. This will be the first time my writing has officially been printed and up for grabs for the public, which is really exciting!
It’s been quite the journey from being the five-year-old with scrap paper to where I am now, though I’m still just beginning. But no matter where this journey takes me, I know that I will be ever thankful for writing, for autumn, and for creativity.