Better on Paper: An Introverted Teen Writer
Written by K.L. Kranes
Pressing the notebook against the wall, she begins to write. The idea flows out as her hand scribbles fast across the paper. When she’s done, her shoulders relax. She stuffs the notebook back in her bag and sets off to class.
At 16-years-old, Hannah Mullen of Mechanicsville, Virginia often feels this grip of an idea and the compulsive need to get it out on paper. On paper she can be herself. On paper is where she feels safe.
“I definitely use writing to work through my emotions,” she explains. “I use my notebooks for everything. I have a reading log in the front. I doodle. I write. It’s usually just whenever and wherever I get inspiration.”
Although Hannah is a writer, she doesn’t necessarily want to make an impression. She would probably rather tiptoe through life making no noticeable divots in the fabric of the world, at least not until she first gave each step a great deal of thought. But, whether she wanted to or not, Hannah made an impression on the Hanover Writers Club. Even three years after she stopped attending meetings, they still remember her, the 12-year-old girl working on her first novel.
When I ask Hannah why she decided to write and publish a novel, she replies, “I just woke up one day and decided this is what I wanted to do.”
Two years after starting the novel, at age 13, Hannah self-published Experimentals on Amazon. She didn’t think anyone would read it. But attention and accolades do not seem to matter much to Hannah.
In fact, it becomes clear early in our interview that Hannah doesn’t like to talk about herself or tout her accomplishments. I get the sense she would rather have her nose in a book than be on the phone with me. Regardless, she is gracious and witty, even if a bit reticent.
“I’ve always loved books,” she says. At the beginning of our interview, Hannah answers my questions with these types of brief answers.
I quickly realize, Hannah, like many writers, is introverted. I ask her, “You don’t trust easily do you?” She answers, “No.”
I feel an instant kinship with Hannah as I too have introverted tendencies. By the end of the interview, I think I have won her trust, but I’m not certain.
Once Hannah gets more comfortable with me, her personality begins to shine through. Although I can’t see her expressions, I imagine she is not quick with a smile, but when she gives one, it is meaningful.
“Sometimes I will go a whole day without saying a word,” Hannah tells me. “People expect me to talk. I don’t mind presentations or anything of the sort but socially I’m a wreck. People think just because I don’t talk to them it means I don’t like them.”
Writing helps Hannah cope with the social pressures of being an introvert in an extroverted world. When she writes, Hannah can carefully craft her words in a way that eludes her when speaking.
“I can erase my writing and I cannot erase what I said. Sometimes I don’t think before I speak, but writing forces me to think,” she says.
Although introverted, Hannah doesn’t spend her days hiding in her room. She has starred in theater productions since she was 8-years-old and takes part in her high school theater program. It isn’t the spotlight that unnerves Hannah, it is not being prepared for it.
“In my head, things aren’t really thought out. It’s big word vomit,” she says. “I like acting because I don’t have to think about what I say.”
Hannah’s thoughtful mind translates to a thoughtful person. Once Hannah opens up during our interview, it becomes clear she has a big heart.
“I’ve always been drawn to helping people,” she says.
In fact, although Hannah finds writing therapeutic, she doesn’t want to be a writer as her profession. It is partially practical. She knows the obstacles and difficulties writers face. Hannah is content writing for herself and pouring her emotions into her notebooks or her poetry blog, https://angsty-teen-poetry.tumblr.com.
Hannah is more interested in helping people than gathering followers on Snapchat or Instagram. She donates her time at a nearby hospital, assisting with discharges and stocking the pharmacy, while dreaming of one day becoming a pediatrician. Her voice thrums with excitement when she talks about being accepted into a program called SODA (Student Organization for Developing Attitudes), which helps teach 4th graders how to deal with peer pressure.
Speaking with Hannah reminds me that writing is not just about getting published or how many people follow your blog. Writing is a deeply personal experience. Hannah doesn’t want to just be known as a girl who wrote and published a book before she was even in high school. She would rather be known for her thoughtfulness and how she helped people. She may feel better on paper, but I think we would all feel better if we viewed the world a bit more like Hannah.