Today, as part of our annual training at the UCT Writing Center, I did a free-writing exercise that lead me to a surprising revelation about myself.
The theme of the free-write was our earliest memory of writing, and this is what I wrote:
The first time I ever remember writing was when I was in sub A. We were living on a small-holding at the time, and I don't know if that influenced my choice of subject, but I was writing about cows. Actually we didn't have any cows on the farm and perhaps we had to choose a magazine article or picture, and I chose pictures of cows? I'm not sure, anyway it was on a small page, an A5 and on the top of the page I stuck a cut out colour picture of a friesland cow and at the bottom a picture of a jersey cow. My text was in the middle and consisted of just 2 or 3 sentences. I said something about how jersey cows produces thick creamy milk. I must have paraphrased the text from the article in the magazine. Thinking back I suppose my mother must have helped me, or at least read the article to me.The pictures were stuck down with cellotape. I still have this 'first writing assignment' somewhere. I remember my teacher, Mrs I have forgotten her name suddenly, was really pleased with it. I remember a great sense of pride over this project.
And then I jotted down a few more thoughts that came to me while we were discussing the exercise after we had finished.
Tartan book and ABC book - very excited about writing. The only other thing I remember academically was joining the WWW society.
annie is an apple
my dad - creative writing stories
What I realised while writing this, and through our discussion afterwards, was that even though now I'm a scientist, ALL my early academic memories revolve around literacy. This surprised me because I have a great memory, but honestly I don't remember learning anything in school besides reading and writing until about the age of ten or eleven. This seems to suggest how powerful the written word was during my formative years, and why I keep finding myself being drawn back to writing over and over again, in increasingly meaningful ways. First recreationally, then competitively, and now in a more professional capacity at the Writing Centre. Even this blog, the point really was to give myself another place to write, to experiment with different genres.
I remember while doing English A-levels that my teacher, who generally didn't like me and knew I was planning on pursuing a career in science, told me that writing would become a late-onset career for me. Now, more and more, I'm wondering if she will be right?