Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Once Upon a Time

Being a writer is not a state that one is born into. It is a journey, made of hundreds of steps taken one at a time. Sometimes those steps are little more than a baby’s faltering walk. Sometimes they are great strides of progress. Sometimes they are flying leaps off a cliff. But together they make the unique path each writer treads, more often by faith than by sight.

And like any journey, the writer’s path has a beginning: A nudge of encouragement by a teacher. A love of reading inspired by a parent. A two-by-four on the backside by God.

I too am on a journey, though it may be simpler and less dramatic than many others’ thus far. Likewise, that journey has a beginning, one that started with four simple words: Once upon a time…

Long before I started school, before I ever learned to read, I fell in love with stories, with the rhythm of words and the wings of imagination. How could I not? Many nights my dad would tuck my younger sister and me into bed and tell us a story. Not any old story from a book. No, my dad would make-up stories off the top of his head, using one object or character from each my sister and me. Stories about princesses and castles in far away lands; stories about unicorns and flying horses and treasure chests; stories about favorite stuffed animals and upside-down houses.

It didn’t matter what we tossed at Dad—and some days I spent a long time trying to come up with something to stump him. But often beginning with “once upon a time,” he would launch into adventures that would keep my sister and I giggling, always incorporating whatever was requested. It amazed me—still does—and Daddy’s bedtime stories took on the awe of the mystical and the magical.

However, there was one hitch. No matter how much my sister and I liked a story, it could never be told again. My dad simply couldn’t retain the story any longer than it took to tell it. Often he would only have the faintest idea what the story was about—a princess in a castle, a unicorn on an adventure.

Therefore, I determined my grand ambition in life by the age of five: I wanted to grow up to write Daddy’s stories down.

My first step had been taken.

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