This post is part of a series on the various ways I've used pen and paper in my life. To learn more about it, check out the introduction, or view the "ink and paper brain" category for other posts.

Before I ever considered telling a journal about my innermost thoughts and feelings, I was using composition books for a separate type of writing: fiction.

I was an enthusiastic writer in elementary school, which probably had something to do with all the reading I did. I devoured novels at a pace that once prompted a librarian to offer my mom a “high-volume” card. On morning bus rides, as we rumbled, rattled, and screeched to school, I closed my eyes and imagined fantastic tales in full color—sometimes putting myself in the worlds I read about, other times inhabiting worlds of my own invention. At intersections and bus stops, I’d pull out my notebook and quickly jot down ideas before the bus began to move again.

There was the story of the two friends who found a time machine. In another story, a team of hyper-intelligent mutant bugs went on a quest for magical gemstones. Fascinated by video games I never owned, I wrote a tale of two friends trapped in a virtual world. And then, of course, there was I Was a Sixth-Grade Onion.

I Was a Sixth-Grade Onion and its sequel, I Was a Sixth-Grade Onion—Again! together constituted, in my 12-year-old mind, the magnum opus of my grade school writing career. My earlier stories had all petered out when I lost interest, but between fifth and sixth grade, I dedicated myself to writing—and completing—these stories. I thought hard about each character’s personality and relationships, filling pages in my notebooks with character sheets. Chapter by chapter, I banged their stories out, and when I was finally done, I was insufferably proud, begging my friends and teachers to read my work. I even dreamed of publication.

Once I entered middle school, where composition notebooks and cubbies were replaced with three-ring binders and lockers, I stopped writing worlds on notebook paper, and slowed my fiction output in general. The words didn’t stop, though—just took a new form.