The Power of Firsts

Firsts—I watched my grandchildren this past weekend in Seattle as they experienced many firsts in their young lives. Moved by their enthusiasm and wonder struck faces I became aware of how complacent I’d become in my daily routines. So I began a journey and dug deep into my memory banks for any first experiences; the ones I know in an instant, somehow changed me. Here are a few; those I can relate back to where I sit today in my desire to create stories.

It’s the time of year when yellow school buses appear around every corner. I remember my first day of school and how I could not wait to return the next day. It was the first day of a life long, insatiable thirst for knowledge. Had it not been such a positive experience, would I over fifty years later, still possess this love of learning and the mysteries it solves?

This time of year, also houses my favorite holiday, Halloween. My first memory of trick-or-treating is of my mother sacrificing a perfect white sheet to transform me from a scrawny little girl into a fierce, scary ghost. Who knew one sheet could be so powerful? It was my first experience with the magical illusion a costume can create. Costumes and play-acting were the pre-cursers to the many short stories I would later place on paper.

Firsts—I shared in a previous blog my very first memory. I was a toddler and attending a funeral being held in a great-aunts living room. The open coffin was nestled in the corner next to the sofa as though it were meant to be just another piece of furniture. Is this very first memory why I’m so fascinated by any myth surrounding death and why death usually makes an appearance in every story I write?

In my desire to jump out of my daily routine I literally jumped into a first experience just a few days ago. While walking through a parking lot I came upon a wind funnel of burnt orange and sunshine yellow leaves. Without forethought, I jumped into their center, closed my eyes and imagined being transported to a foreign land in the same manner Dorothy was swept into the Land of OZ. In those brief moments I envisioned a world where beings skipped and danced, but never walked; they spoke only in rhyme. A land whose entry could be gained only through a tornado of fall colored foliage. When I opened my eyes, I felt a shift in my perception and knew I would never again watch leaves skipping on a breeze without being thrown into my newly invented imaginary realm.

Firsts—when was the last time you truly experienced a first? Not just any first, but one that left you altered, no longer the same person you were just moments before.

I write short stories labeled southern gothic; they involve mythic entities and many would considered them horror. I remember my very first heart pounding; sweat drenched, feeling of terror. I was a teenager walking alone through a decaying graveyard situated along a gator-infested bayou, in the middle of the night. I wrapped my first memory of pure fear around me and have held on to it like a well-worn blanket so I can recall it when I need my readers’ pulse to pound as mine did so long ago. But I’ve discovered memories, even first memories, fade with time.

Firsts—Isn’t it every writers dream, to write the first, the first original anything? As I sit here sifting through my firsts I realize they did indeed shape my life’s path in what I choose to write. But can they, this many years later, help me by providing the spark needed to infuse in my reader the intense emotion I want them to feel? I think not. Perhaps writers block or whatever term you wish to use for stale, lifeless stories is simply due to the nature of a writer’s life. It’s usually an introverts life, one of seclusion, where firsts, at least for this writer, are not a daily event, but a far away distant memory.

In a few weeks I’ll be attending an annual Ghost Writers Workshop. I intend to pen a spine shriveling gothic tale. It’s been far too long since I’ve personally felt the intense horror I wish to impart. So I’m planning a new first. At least it will be my first, as a middle-aged woman. I ask your assistance; does anyone know of a properly ghoul-filled cemetery near by? I’m in need of a walk alone at midnight, amongst rotting tombstones and since there are no gator-infested bayous in Oregon, perhaps a few wolves could be prowling. The hair on my arms is already prickling with alarm and I’ve only just opened my front door eager to step out into the dark and capture new terror.

Firsts—tell me your tales of firsts and how they’ve shaped your life and writing style.

3 thoughts on “The Power of Firsts

  1. Isn’t everything a first? We just don’t take the time to enjoy each moment as it comes at us anymore. We’ve become jaded. The reason those firsts seemed so special in youth, is we took the time to see them. Loved this whole idea of finding the original feeling again!

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