Ambition Lost and Found

If I haven't always claimed the name, I have been a writer for longer than I can remember. I scribbled stories on scrap paper from my grandfather's printer and on the backs of math worksheets. I made up elaborate stories while playing with my younger brother and then grilled his memory to record them at day's end. I filled seventeen journals between the ages of 10 and 18. Over the iterations, I learned that my notebooks needed to meet two criteria: Spiral binding, because there's no point in a journal if it's uncomfortable to write on the left-hand side of the pages and tons of pages (if it was thick enough to demolish my brother's K'Nex castles if used as a weapon of self defense, it was a perfect candidate).

That was it. I piled them up on a closet shelf and in a drawer in the window seat of my bedroom as my words consumed the pages. I wrote about the mundane details of life one day and the next started sketching out a story. I began my first novel in 1999, when everyone knew the world was going to end. If life as we knew it would be over, I thought I may as well shape the life that would follow.

In middle school, I decided to interview my maternal grandmother for a school project of some sort. As I flew towards her house on my still-new bike, reveling the power of my legs as I anticipated the power of my mind, I imagined the winds of change coming. This was it. This story about my grandmother was to be the making of Stephanie Lang, Writer. I had my Serious Journalist black and white composition notebook tucked under my arm (these books were acceptable for note-taking only) and a pen in the pocket of my denim shorts, which stabbed my thigh each time I pedaled. As I sat on the carpet in front of my grandmother's blue floral couch, I heard stories about my grandparents as young teenagers; learned that my grandmother didn't speak English until she went to grade school. The story began to shape itself as I rode home.

I was confident. I was happy. I was a girl with a mission and a passion, and I vowed I'd stay true to that little self no matter what life threw at me.

After four years writing and editing for my high school newspaper, though, I no longer wanted to barge into the lives and tragedies of others and tell their stories. I wanted to tell my own stories. I certainly had enough of them bouncing off the walls of my imagination. Still, my brief time as a reporter had given me my best friend, my first writer's conference, and invaluable practice and instruction in interviewing, writing, editing, and page layout.

As I grew my career in publishing and as an editor, I discovered ways to help others tell their own stories. Along the lines, as I engaged in this important work, I neglected my own stories more often than not. They sat in unopened notebooks and buried in my Google Docs list.

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I've been doing a fair bit of writing lately, for myself, privately and quietly. I'm not yet sure where to take some ideas that have been swirling, and, quite honestly, they sit forgotten because I have chosen to funnel my attention and energy into the problem-solving episodes of real life. You know the ones, they refuse to be ignored.

I'm still writing. I just haven't been sharing that writing, or making ambitious plans for the words that result.

But, I still want to. I still need to.

A bit of that young girl's ambition has resurfaced in the last year. It's time to do something with it.