My middle school education was mediocre at best. All students were treated exactly the same. There were no grades, just checks and minuses. The more advanced students did the same work as the least advanced students. I left middle school not knowing what I was good at (or had the potential to be good at), and that was the biggest problem. If I’d known I had potential as a writer, I would have started sooner.

For me, the thought process came before the writing skills. I had always prided myself on my imagination and creativity. This was what initially sparked my interest in writing. When I was twelve, I saw the movie, “Finding Neverland,” about J.M. Barrie, author of the novel, Peter Pan. The film is about the family who inspired Barrie to write the novel, and how he inspired them in return. One of the boys in the family, who Peter was named after, had a huge imagination. Barrie showed him how to put his imaginative thoughts on paper by buying the boy a journal to write down his every idea. After seeing the film, I asked my mom to buy me a fancy journal for my thoughts. Ever since, I’ve kept journals to record concepts for novels, or short stories, that I hoped to eventually write.

I still wasn’t a full-fledged writer at that point. Stories fascinated me – I read more books than I could count – but I wasn’t sold on the act of writing itself until freshmen year of high school.

We had just turned in our first essays of the year; my English teacher posted unclear sentences from each on the board. Our assignment: clarify them. I was immediately able to reorganize them in my head, and was first to raise my hand each time. After about the fifth one or so, my teacher stopped and addressed the class: “Wow. The one thing you guys should know about Rae is that she has tremendous strength as a writer.” This blew me away. In fact, it’s one of my most vivid high school memories; certainly one of my happiest. I had never really known I could write before then. After that, I really got going. I was writing all the time.

Now, instead of doodling in my math notebook, I write. When I’m upset, I write. When I’m happy, I write. Nothing pleases me more than getting an idea and flushing it out on paper. It all plays out so clearly in my mind, kind of like a movie, but so much more personal and internal.

My friends don’t get my obsession with writing, reading, and editing. When I get an idea for a story, I immediately grab my journal and write it down. After I read a great book, I have to tell an English teacher about it. Every creative piece I write, I have my parents and friends read. You can never stop developing as a writer, so I do the best I can to make progress.

The great thing about writing is that it’s accessible. All you need is a pen and paper. You’re in charge of everything you write. And how often are you completely in charge of something