- Books, Literature, and Writing
An essay about my personal experiences with reading, writing, and imagination
Reading and Writing with Elliot
I am not really sure where to start. Since there is not too great deal in pile up in my life or early days related to my past and development in writing. I guess I could focus more on my progress and often, from some points of view, an odd experience with language. I say that mostly because my experience involves a lot of story telling and adventure; At least from what I can remember. My mother would always enlighten me with stories, mostly eerie, spooky, wacky stories. These tales of terror in all probability predisposed my mind's eye a lot. Moving around at a young age and exploring the world around me probably contributed to my out of the ordinary acuity of reality and many of my strange adventures with the written and spoken tongue. Reading and learning for that matter, at least in my younger years, did not seem like my craze. But, of course things change, and a big alteration in my whole outlook on the topic changed a lot, I would say, mostly in my teenage years; mostly around high school influences on my writing started to spark my interest on the topic, especially informal writing. That focus in the tale of my undertaking into the English language can be communicated later on, however. The beginning of my written story will start with my blanket and my books.
When I lived in Sarasota, Florida, where I was born, and departed from around the age of four, my first moment with books and the wonderful world composed inside started in my den size bedroom. My mother would show me her favorite childhood adventures stamped by various artists into thin books with classically blue, violet, pink, or blue cardboard covers. These first steps into fundamental literature usually spoke of stories about far off lands with magic sparks of witchcraft and mayhem. We climbed of hills of google gob and Dr. Seuss and his friends the three little pigs ate lunch together on top of interesting mountains full of all sorts of dangerous candy and beautiful ideas; yes, in these worlds ideas mountains exploded with new improbable ideas and imaginations on a daily basis. My mother placed a lot of these books on brown shelves, which were short and reachable; at four years old I was quite height impaired. Now, back to the blanket, it was blue and my mother and I hid ourselves under it, well actually kind of inside it. We would sponge down and jump under and then up, pushing each edge of the fantastical blanket under ourselves, creating a sort of artificial dream world, mother and son cocoon. This thing was my mother’s way of escaping with her son. Here I learned a lot about the world from my mother. Well maybe not about the real world, but I did learn a lot about the world people wish to embrace. How much I actually learned to read and write under that blanket is another question, although, I have to say, my imagination and desire to read on my own started here most likely. She taught me basic reading under there if I can remember correctly. I learned with her without the help of real teachers, under a blanket in my own little world with her. We left Sarasota after my fourth year living outside the womb and my adventure changed course, however, the goal was still the same. The goal was to see the world from all angles and all sides of the story; the story of "life", that is.
The path in the goal changed because my focus changed. I went from basic literature to the bona fide world. I was heading to Australia and eventually New Zealand and back to America. My journey away from the United States and back lasted about three years; two years in Australia and one year in New Zealand. My luck, born into a family of exploration and travel, landed me a ticket into a better and more diverse understanding of humanity around me. I believe it influenced my reading style mostly because it helped me with my ability to imagine, more vividly, the world around me. Australia was also the beginning of my mother’s hauntings; her stories about late nights and strange hotels, spooky ghosts, and creepy crawlies. There were stories about super heroes and other interesting fun; meaning excellent action packed fun. A strange contribution and the only contribution I can think of, that influenced my writing at this time may have been the slight difference in schooling I was thrown into in foreign countries. It may have influenced my writing especially since my first experiences with learning to write began in kinder garden and first grade there. Surprisingly, or maybe not, I do not remember much of my family and friend fun in both of these countries, so much of the clear contributions to my writing and reading is this stage of my young life and blurry. Some of my foremost influences, though, are much easier to remember when I came back to the United States. We decided to leave and head to North Carolina, specifically Charlotte. We rented a small apartment in a massive complex called Alta Forest. The influence of my reading and writing here can probably be seen in my adventures into the huge forest that intertwined its way through the complex. My friends and I had some crazy times in those forests. The imagination went wild in there, if you understand what I mean. Stories of hauntings, and disappearing houses were told. We built forts and had battles, we went down muddy hills on bikes, and rode around on anything we could find with wheels. Strangely most of what I believe taught me to read and write was not the acts themselves but, more my experiences in life. These explorations took me too places I had never been and showed me things I could not imagine.
There are too many stories to tell and general examples seem to paint my picture best. One chronicle I can think of, that may have had some influence happened in third grade. All I can recall about the teacher was some sort of tie dye jacket. But getting away from those details, this was the first year I learned to draw in three dimensions. I think, at least from what I can remember, I learned to write vivid coherent stories because of my new found ability to draw. The first small book I wrote because of these changes mixed up a vacuum and a rabbit in a tale; where the rabbit lived with his rabbit parents in a very rabbit like world. He had his rabbit parents and rabbit sister and just about rabbit everything. The rabbit’s days changed when he was sucked into a powerful innovative, yet secretly magical vacuum his mother had purchased. A whole new world opened up to the rabbit. There was a forest with hazelnut colored leaves and all kinds of new furry woodland creatures inside. The story introduced its plot when the daring rabbit learned of a dangerous force had taken control of the vacuum world. The book, only about ten hand written pages, also had a lot of illustrations to go along with the story. Most of my influence here probably had to do with my amazing adventures with my friends and family in the forest.
Video games and movies left a huge impression my ability to form complex story lines and plot twists. Video games in particular teach you to problem solve and develop a keen sense for what should come next and helped me in my writing my pushing each piece of my jumbled imagination into place. Meaning, mostly I think, video games helped me organize my thoughts better while movies influenced the complexity of my stories. On top of that I think movies, with their foreseeable plots and twists, helped me think of stories that made a lot of sense and were more predictable, or predictable enough to follow and enjoy.
My next big tale of influence probably should land its place in Cleveland, Ohio. We stayed in Ohio for about one year for various reasons involving family, after about five years in Charlotte. Here, because of the cold, the weather kept me inside. We were living with my grandmother, on my mother's side, taking care of her. My mother, little sister, and I slept in the same big room with me on one of those fold up beds. You know a thin mattress like hospital bed. It was pushed up against a queen size bed, where my mother and sister slept. Most of the influence on my reading started here, since I did not read much before this time; I just listened to stories and went on adventures. My mother, sister, and I probably went through about two books a week over the course of that year. We would take turns reading to each other. We read all of the Chronicles of Narnia books, some Harry Potter books, some series of unfortunate event books, the Wrinkle in Time books, and so much more. That year was a lot of fun and was probably the first year I actually started to read on a regular basis outside of school.
Following that year the family took off, back to North Carolina, except this time we landed in Raleigh. I met my closest friend there, Asher Washington, and after that my way of life and concept of what this life is all about took off. I read some, and wrote some, but not too much. My life now was full of interesting philosophical thought and my first target and fascination beginning in seventh grade was religion. The whole religion obsession actually had most of its calling come from the fact that my parents had become quite religious all of a sudden. My friend Asher and I, in fact, actually met at synagogue or Jewish church. The philosophical discussions took place mostly on long walks late at night; or with my Rabbi and other people at synagogue during Kiddush or a meal after praying on the Sabbath or Jewish day of rest. My family also had quite deep and sometimes mind blowing discussions at dinner or lunch on an on off basis too. The walks, that lasted anywhere form three to fifteen hours, with occasional sitting and eating, had the most influence though. I barely wrote, besides in school, so most of my ideas grew and grew inside my head. I also barely ever used paper or a computer as a helping hand to figure things out and work through complex problems. I think these long walks and the fact that I was quite thoughtful when it came to thinking about any philosophical question, helped influence the way I write and think about things a lot; especially thinking about what I read, when I read. The long, in depth discussions about God, analyzing quotes from different texts, and the frequent and ever-changing weekly topics on scientific inquiry brought my critical thinking and analysis to a whole new level.
These discussions took me on a new path of thought and a newly awakened desire for knowledge. This led me on my path and created my life journey into philosophy and the love of knowledge and my great desire to learn. These discussions still continue today and everyday at that. The discussions with my close friend, Asher Washington, have been taking place almost everyday since I was twelve years old.
My interest in philosophy brought out the entrepreneur in me in high school. In tenth grade I started a Philosophy club that greatly influenced my ability in comprehending complex ideas and along with that difficult readings became easier. That is, philosophy that seemed difficult to understand all of a sudden made perfect sense. ; I would usually have to reread sentences several times to understand some of the more difficult philosophy like Kant's, and Ayn Rand's philosophical works. The philosophy club meetings came together once a week to read an article or argument that the club members collectively found intriguing.
Formal influence on my writing came only in my final year in high school and my first semester in college. The senior level influence took place, not surprisingly, in English. The influence was the teacher and her name was Mrs. George east. Her influence was not some much her comments or recommendations for my papers, but more her style of teaching. She made me want to write and oh, I wrote. She helped a lot because format and style, from her perspective, allowed for student writing to be more flexible and free. She said it allowed a writer to express themselves in a most familiar and natural way. I was allowed to explore my own style of writing.
In college, last semester, my classes were interesting and the professors were oh, so influential. They let me express my self as much as a class could allow. Which was of course, letting me spread my wings and dive deep into my own ideas. I think my writing improved the most in the past year that it ever has. Allowing a student to write about want he loves and is most interested in, I believe, allows for so much. In the sense that, writing, is such a, well, personal matter and exploring what you love the most, what you love being what defines who you are, allows for an inner exploration of self. This breakthrough is the key for a love for writing and that love for writing is all you need, after that everything else, all the technical stuff, falls into place, you will see, quite easily. The writing center at the bottom of the library would be my final influence. In that small room the helpful hand of a free writing tutor, and more even to me, someone to communicate my ideas to, along with organizing those ideas, took my writing into a new realm. I felt, for the first time, with these writing tutors, interesting classes and professors that my writing was interesting to read, less confusing I guess.
After exploring my history with words, and the amazing world within in one, the biggest influences in my life seem to lie in my imagination. The many things I threw in there throughout my childhood with the help of my family and friends. Writing is less about the actual act and more about what you write about and how you write it. Reading is all about drawing and coloring. That is, in your mind, when you read, you have to paint that picture, and color in the black and white; or maybe leave it black and white if that seems more fitting for the story. Imagination and adventure is the key to reading and writing, proven by the simple fact that a picture is worth a thousand words.