December 2006

My First Words

I wonder what my first word was. I’m sure mother cried as she told her friends in the sewing circle, “Her first word was Mama.” Or, maybe dad passed around cigars to his work buddies as he said, “Dada. That’s the first word my girl said.” I wonder, was my first word actually some unintelligible muttering that pleased my parents so much that they simply heard what they pleased? What parent doesn’t want their child’s first word to be a reflection of their own parenthood?

The power of the written word captured me at an early age. When I was a little girl, my mother used to read me a story titled The Little Engine That Could. I can still see the smooth, bright cover with the train on the front, the colorful pictures and words within, as my mother read me the story about the train who had trouble getting up the hill. Ms. Choo-Choo pushed herself up the hill on pure motivation and the words, “I think I can, I think I can.” While growing up and going through the growing pains of pessimism, my mother would say, “Remember the little train that could?” Even as an adult, those words have become a part of my being, a mantra that carries me through darker periods of low motivation and self-imposed pity.

I have always wanted to be a writer. I discovered poetry when I was about 12 years old, scribbling out long, rhyming verses on notebook paper. Poetry helped me escape to a place were I could create any kind of story I wanted, all it took was stanzas, meter and rhyming. I still have copies of those poems tucked away in a notebook.

When I was in high school, I began writing lyrics. I wondered what my words would sound like set to music. I studied everything I could at the library on writing lyrics. When I was 17, I secretly entered Velvet Roses in the American Song Festival Lyric Competition. Out of thousands of entrants, I won an honorable mention. I laminated that award, and it now lives with all of my precious memorabilia.

I have been a self-proclaimed writer for many years- I have poetry published in a few small press magazines, and have won first place for two stories in writing contests and have authored other small non-paying contributions. For my senior project for my Bachelor Degree, I wrote a novella then gave a presentation of my creative process. I have never been paid in more than copies, and most of my work has been for self-fulfillment purposes.

Now, as I embark on my new adventure, I feel a little like I am speaking my first words, or writing my first poem or short story. When I want to give up on my writing, or I wonder why I write at all, my mother whispers from a faraway place, “I think I can, I think I can.”

Yes- I think I can. In fact, I’m sure I can.

(c) 2006 by Susan Littlefield