• Your Childhood Writing

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 30 comments

    Discussion questions: What were some of your formative childhood experiences with writing? What inspired you (if you remember!) to experiment with writing? Do you see any of your adult self in your juvenilia? If you could go back and give your childhood self one piece of writing advice, what would it be? Let us know in the comments.


    In his Q&A, our newest writing coach and consultant, John Sibley Williams, writes about his first experience with poetry: “It was summer in New York and I was sitting by a lake with my feet dragging through the current when suddenly, without my knowing what I was doing, I began writing something that obviously wasn’t a story. No plot. No characters,” he writes.

    “What was it? Impressions. Colors. Emotions. Strange images … And I didn’t have any paper, so I used a marker to write a series of phrases on my arm. Then they poured onto my leg. Then I realized I needed paper. I ran back to the car, took out a little notebook, and spent hours emptying myself of visions and fears and joys I don’t think I even knew I had.”

    I love stories like this, where a young person stumbles across a new talent through accident and experimentation.

    It made me revisit my own Q&A, which I filled out so long ago now. (Because WriteByNight just turned ten years old! Did you miss it?) In it, I said, “As a kid I wrote dozens of stories about baseball, straightforward play-by-play narratives: ‘Here’s the pitch. Strike one! Here’s the next pitch. It’s a ball.’”

    That’s easy, and fun, for me to mock, but those baseball stories were my first attempts at writing something outside the classroom. Writing something just because I wanted to. For fun. And excitement! They used to rile me up.

    I’d grown up a rabid Milwaukee Brewers fan, and I listened to Bob Uecker call games on the radio as often as I could. So it’s no surprise that many of Uecker’s catchphrases, and even his rhythms, show up in that work. Lots of pitches were “right down Main Street.” Fly balls were accompanied by “Get up, get up and get outta here… Gone!” And the stories always featured real-life Brewer players, your Robin Younts and Paul Molitors and Jimmy Gantners.

    I didn’t know it at the time, but I was experimenting with storytelling. And drama. Every game I wrote about, win or lose, climaxed with a bottom-of-the-9th rally by the Brewers. I was mimicking the world around me, but I was putting my own spin on it.

    Nearly three decades later, baseball still shows up in most of my fiction. The sentences and plots are constructed more artfully (arguably), but many of the themes — failure, redemption — are the same.

    If there’s any advice I would give to that twelve-year-old self, I suppose it would be: Keep at it. Keep pursuing your interest in writing. Because at some point I got too cool for writing fiction — from my early teens until a college class in my late twenties, I almost never wrote, outside of school assignments.

    Then again, maybe it has all worked out the way it was supposed to. The novel I’m writing now would’ve had a much different –and, I think, much worse — look if I’d started it in my twenties. Or even earlier in my thirties.

    And it’s not like the layoff affected my interests. Early in Chapter 2, a bunch of characters are sitting around a bar listening to a Brewers game on the radio.

    It’s 1987, and Robin Yount is at the plate.

    Bob Uecker is calling the play-by-play.


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2019 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    KevinWBobbieDavid DuhrKevin Wozniaksnowglobe Recent comment authors
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    Hans De Leo
    Hans De Leo

    There wasn’t much in the way of childhood writing for me. I wrote only when assigned to do so in school. I’m a bit of a ‘late bloomer’. Okay, maybe more than a bit. I was in my late 30’s before I decided to explore my creative side, after having a dream in which I fought (something) with a flaming sword. I decided to write a story around that. And no, that story isn’t published, and I’m completely re-working the concept because my literary horizons have been expanded far beyond that story since then. My formative years I spent reading.… Read more »


    I agree with your advice to keep the stuff you wrote as a child. At 14 I whipped off a poem about wasting time. It was really good and my teacher had it published in a teaching journal, but I did’t keep a copy and she never gave it back to me. During that time, I also wrote several short stories for fun and used them as classwork when I was too lazy to write a new one. Of course, I have no copies of those early scribblings. My mother had kept one I wrote from second grade, but like… Read more »


    Not sure how old I was, so I will guess somewhere between 10 and 12, I took part in a series of children’s poetry workshops at a local community college. The teacher was a locally well known poet and he was great with kids! A handful of my poems from those workshops were published in the Chicago Tribune. From the very beginning I was taught by that workshop teacher and the rest of them to cut out any and all “un-necessary” words… I still use this practice in my poetry today…


    Brewers game on the bar radio–very cool image. In grade school (early 1960s) I wrote a poem about UFOs that my teacher read to the class. Then I wrote a story about a dog that saved his master from a bear or something (Disney influence), which was also read to the class. That’s as far as I got in early childhood with trying to write creatively. The rest of the time I drew pictures (good, not great). As a teenager, I once determined I would write a superhero story. I thought, and thought, but could not come up with a… Read more »

    José Skinner
    José Skinner

    I wrote a novel at age 18 or 19 under the Dunning-Kruger effect. That is, I deemed myself competent to the task because I was too ignorant to know what true competence involved (I wasn’t that well-read, and certainly had never taken a writing course). I found the ms. a few years ago while cleaning out a closet at my mom’s house. It wasn’t even good enough to be embarrassing, if that make any sense. I do remember it being a breeze to write, however.

    david lemke
    david lemke

    I did something dumb when I was a kid; I would not be able to go to sleep because my brain was busy writing poems, the old kind with rhythm and rhyme. This happened more then once and I was impressed with me, but I never wrote them down. Oh well. I had several poems published in the Lance, the high school literary magazine. When I was 14, there was an English teacher I liked and she was also teaching creative writing. I wrote and submitted a space opera sf story. Amazing tales(I think) sent me back a generic, “does… Read more »


    Even before I could hold a pencil, I created stories. As the 1st born grandchild in an extended family, I always had an audience. Lately, I witness grown-ups say, “Good job,” to their children while checking their texts. But, I could get grandma & an aunt or 2, to stop folding laundry or stirring pots as I read aloud my tales of princesses who just happened to live on Thatford Avenue too. I think that’s why writing alone in predawn quietness & later, presenting an evening book talk to an awaiting audience is, for me–darn wonderful.

    Kevin Wozniak
    Kevin Wozniak

    Age 12 I got shuffled off to a new family and new school. Hated it. Got assigned to read Steinbeck’s “The Pearl”, to be accompanied by a poem and drawing about the book. True to form, I ripped through the book quickly and forgot about the homework. The morning the assignment was due, I was reminded of it on the school bus. I pulled a notebook out of my bookbag and banged out a poem just to avoid another “F”. Later, in study hall I recopied the rough draft and drew a crappy picture to accompany it (I had and… Read more »

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