First, you must experience an early trauma. It can be as dramatic as a kidnapping, a house fire, or abuse from a trusted adult or something as simple as being an only child to an absent-minded mother. The degree of trauma doesn’t matter; it just helps that you experience it and tuck it away in the sleeve of your heart to unpack later. This trauma must happen before the age of four, so that it can imprint on your still-forming self.
Next, you must feel a sense of loneliness and isolation from others. This sensibility can be manufactured if necessary. You can force yourself to hide in the closet under your mother’s winter coats for hours on end. You can give away all of your toys to the rowdy neighbor boys and then stare out the living room window, feeling sorry for yourself. The critical thing is to somehow disconnect from others, but also from yourself, so that you can start thinking about your life in third person as in: “The girl played alone in the basement with her broken porcelain doll while her mother baked a cake and didn’t offer her any of the batter.”
Now you must start reading books that are too old for you, preferably books about misunderstood, sensitive girls. Not Nancy Drew, in other words. Nancy Drew could set any potential writer toward the exact opposite direction away from dreaminess and into practicality and sensible, rubber soled shoes.
Daydream in school. Make up entire conversations between you and people you’ve never met—movie stars, Austrian royalty, jockeys. Invent a plausible situation or an implausible situation, but be sure that you come out on top in the end.
In junior high, stumble upon the poetry of Sylvia Plath and believe for a time that you are the only person your age to discover this dark, tortured genius. Do not think of yourself as a cliché (that will come later in writing classes where the word “cliché” is spit out with great venom during workshops). No, you are thirteen and the world is horrible and you will never fall in love or kiss a boy and no one understands you and for God’s sake, all you asked your mother was for one pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, is that too much?
Write about your tortured life every day in your brand new Hello Kitty diary, a gift from your grandmother who lives far away and seldom visits, but who gave you your first real book about lonely girls, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Make sure to lock your diary tight and slip it between the box spring and mattress—this secret thing that’s all your own.
About The Author
Aimee LaBrie received her MA in writing from DePaul University in 2000 and her MFA in fiction Penn State in 2003. Her collection of short stories, Wonderful Girl, won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction in 2007 and was published by the University of North Texas Press.Other stories of hers have been published in Minnesota Review, Pleiades, Quarter After Eight, Iron Horse Literary Review, and numerous other literary journals. Her short story, "Ducklings" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Pleiades.