Sometimes it’s a good thing—like reflecting on the kind of adult you thought you’d become when you were a child, when thinking wasn’t yet complicated by knowledge—for a writer to remember what writing felt like back at the beginning.
This is probably most useful to those who were, as I was, resolved to be writers at an early age. I was nine when words began to serve their extraordinary purposes for me: I was lonely and they kept me company, they materialized whenever and wherever I called on them, without an argument or a competitive leer. No one knew or judged how well I did them. This was not jumping in as the two ropes turned and came whipping down like a great moving parenthesis around me and slapped the ground and snarled my feet. This was not trying to connect the broad side of the bat with a ball that got miraculously smaller as it approached the scuff of dirt we called the plate. The words were purely mine at first, a secret transaction between inner and outer, between silence and speech, between what I knew—or knew that I knew—and what I didn’t recognize as knowing, but that I could bring up like a brimming pail from a deep unlighted well.
What I wrote as a child I wrote for comfort, for invisible power, for the astonished pleasure of the feel of the letters—for their look, which was shape and color: every letter had a color for me, E yellow-orange and K and P blue and purple, like shadows on snow, W brown; I transparent as ice. There was a private ad hoc physics at work in the form those letters took; and sound, the fricatives and glottals and aspirates as satisfying to move around, for me, as tin soldiers or matchbox cars for someone who liked to wage different kind of fantasy wars. This was a time of polymorphous perverse pleasure in language, with no end outside the moment, no end outside myself.