April 5, 2008
By Phoebe Nir, New York, NY

I think that all writers start off as readers, or at least I did. As a little girl, I was absolutely obsessed with books, and unless my eyes were closed, I was probably reading something. License plates, logos, or the eye charts at the pediatrician, I relished decoding these hieroglyphics that left so many of my classmates mystified, and loved making friends with the characters in my I Can Read books. My imagination would practically hyperventilate every time I went for a run with Dick and Jane or exchanged monosyllabic pleasantries with my hippo friends, George and Martha. A few years later, at my (Harry Potter themed) birthday party, somebody gave me a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. I must admit, I was not excited; like many self-proclaimed intellectual children, the driving force behind my penchant for academia was a disdain for physical activity. Wasn’t that, like, a job? The whole point of my reading was to escape to worlds that people built for me. If I had any kind of autonomy, would I realize that the emperor wore no clothes? Reluctantly, I began to read it. (Incidentally, how could I not? It was a book, and it was sitting on my shelf- laws more powerful than physics made the thing stick to my hand like white on rice.) The second I finished the book, I had a revelation: I had been taking gross liberties with the characters in my books for years! If I could sit with the Hardy Boys at my uncle’s wedding, then who was to say that I couldn’t invent my own characters, and do with them as I pleased? In retrospect, my early pieces probably weren’t as good as I thought they were. My story about eating a popsicle may not have been as Nobel-quality as my father implied, and in all likelihood, the waiter probably didn’t propose to his girlfriend with my poem, “Charizard vs. Pikkachu.” But for the first time in my life, I was writing. I was writing! I was the inventing and constructing my own worlds, like the think-tanked beginner books had done for me. I started sleeping better, as the half-formed lingual doodles floating around in my cranium began to snuggle between the sheets of my notebook, and finally end their restless wanderings. I was, and I still am, always waiting for the moment when my mind will run dry, when my globular inspirations will all be put to rest. Fortunately, that day hasn’t come yet, and hopefully, it never will.

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