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My First Writing. Ever.


I know, I know. I had a Hello Kitty diary.

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for me as I’ve grappled with the emotional chaos of selling a book, adjusted to my new schedule, and begun to tackle the process of revising my debut novel. I took some advice from a friend and set up a writing room, a sacred place where I can invoke the muse without distraction. As I was moving my books around (mostly battered Dragonlance and Heinlein paperbacks), I came across a cache of old journals–including my first-ever diary: a red, vinyl-covered volume bearing the image of Hello Kitty and her mouse companion on some kind of mustard-yellow motorized scooter. I remember wanting this particular diary not for the cartoon cat, but because it had a secure-looking brass lock, something that could protect my darkest secrets from prying eyes. I remember being totally unconcerned that others might make fun of me, an eight-and-a-half-year-old boy, for owning a Hello Kitty diary. I’d like to claim bravery, but it was more likely naiveté. Kudos to my free-thinking parents, though, for letting me have it. And, in any case, at some point I lost the key and had to cut the feeble vinyl strap that held the diary closed. So, secrecy be damned, I’m going to share what I found when I cracked it open.

First entry: Tuesday, Dec 4

Weather: Sunny

My girlfriend is…well, no one. I guess. Today, my teacher yelled at me today [sic] because I was not doing well in art. I’m in room 201, and my teacher’s name is [REDACTED]. She’s nice most of the time. Right now I live at [REDACTED]. I’m eight-and-a-half. My favorite subjects [in] school are Language, Spelling and Phonics. My favorite movie is Ghostbusters. I made Citizenship last quarter! I’m a Bobcat Cub Scout. I’ve got one yellow bead!

Beneath this entry I drew a poorly rendered stick figure with a cartoon speech bubble exclaiming, “Hi!” I won’t include it here, but let’s just say it’s clear why I wasn’t “doing well in art.” And yet, within my entry, I had managed to hyphenate my age and capitalize all the proper nouns. It seems to me that, even at age eight and a half, my path was emerging before me.

But wait, it gets better.

My subsequent entry, dated three days later, is worth sharing as well. It is the first of several dozen song lyrics I have composed over the years:

Once you get a big idea, you’ve got to follow through Oh, Oh, Oh! You’ve got to! No turnin’ back now, boy! Oh, oh, oh! It’s not a toy!

Ironically, I did not follow through; at least, not right away. I left the diary blank for almost a year, picking it up again the following November:

(Cont’d 28 of November Sunny)

No one can control you, ‘Cause only you know what to do

Who Do You Want To Be?

I got emotional as I turned the pages, realizing that I had known myself better at age eight than I had through my teens, twenties, and early thirties. In my first-ever blog post–my adult diary of sorts–I recalled taking out a blank sheet of paper and making a list of all the things I had ever wanted to be when I grew up. Novelist was one of those things, and now I’m beginning to live that dream–but more importantly, I’m honoring a part of myself that I have been keeping on the sidelines for most of my life. I am going back to what I loved. Not what I wanted to be, but who I have always been. That eight-year-old boy knew what I loved, and was as unconcerned about the challenges of a life in the arts as he was about being teased for his red Hello Kitty diary. I admire that kid. I shall try to live up to his hope.

Jeff Garvin

Author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN and THE LIGHTNESS OF HANDS. Cohost of THE HERO'S JOURNEY podcast. Rock musician, D&D geek, aspiring revolutionary.

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