by Akim Reinhardt
I wrote my first poem when I was 11 years old. Simple quatrains with an ABCB rhyme scheme, it was a meditation on the 6th grade coming to an end. I enjoyed the work of writing it and was proud of the finished product.
Up until that point, whenever an adult had posed that most rote of questions (What do you want to be when you grow up?), I typically responded “baseball player” or “president of the United States.” The former because I loved playing baseball, even if I wasn't very good at it. The latter because, if you had to make an abstract choice about the far distant future, why not just pick the top thing?
But after assiduously penning that first set of verses into lined loose leaf paper, another idea began to take vague form: Perhaps I could write for a living.
During the next decade-plus, I found various ways to entwine myself with written words. I continued composing lots of poems. I wrote for the 9th grade yearbook. I struggled and failed with short stories. As a freshman in college I took an introductory creative writing class. As a sophomore I began writing about music for the college newspaper. As a junior I took a second writing course. After graduating I did some freelance work for alternative weeklies. Around that time, I began writing songs, and my earlier interest in poems was eventually usurped by the crafting of lyrics. I took another swipe at short stories; they were now a lot better, but highly derivative.
During those years of knock around jobs and cheap rent, I thought very hard about being a writer and put in a fair amount of practice. Could I actually do this?