I never fell in love with writing. I remember in fourth grade, my school assigned my class to write picture books with the intention to read them in groups. We had a small publishing room that made covers and bindings for us. When it came my turn to share, I was so fiercely embarrassed of what I’d come up with that I cried until the teacher let me sit out of it.
Some point in sixth grade, I attempted writing a story out of pure condescension, upon learning how so many fanfiction writers struggled with grammar. This was back when I still considered fanfiction inferior, in some way, to original fiction, ignorant to the fact that it is a completely different medium. It was also back when I thought that perfect grammar made a perfect writer.
In eighth grade, by some circumstance, I stumbled upon National Novel Writing Month, and what drove me to sign up for the November challenge was not any interest in writing a novel but because I felt that writing 50,000 words in 30 days seemed easy. When I failed, I think I took it as a kind of personal affront, and I told myself I would succeed the next.
Looking back, I really never fell in love with writing – if anything, I was the frog in the pot, and it took years for the water to start boiling. My forays into writing bore no love for fiction and instead was out of the bizarre perception that writing was easy. I learned, try after try, that it was not, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
And then, come tenth grade. I hadn’t realized at the time, but looking back, I suffered from a kind of prolonged, situational depression. I dissociated frequently, but lacking the proper terminology to explain it, I described it to myself as ‘an emotional flatline’ or ‘an emotional plateau’. I would find myself boxed in, emotional spectrum limited on either side. Sometimes I could scrape together a touch of melancholy or a hint of amusement. Most of the time, not even that.
The story I started writing at this time is one I plan to finish some day, but not until years later when I am confident that I can do it justice. The gist of the story is that the protagonist does not know how to express herself, refuses to acknowledge her stress or stressors, and keeps her struggles secret from everyone she knows, even when fantasy elements start to come into play. The protagonist, through chance (though is anything ever really chance?), acquires an item that allows her to see a world overlaid with our own, affected by and affecting the emotional health of her city. Through interacting with the abstract, and often times dangerous, manifestations of her pent up thoughts, she learns to come to terms with them and find a way to become emotionally self-sufficient.
Before this, I had refused to write characters I relate to. I felt that, somehow, that was cheating, or perhaps I was uncomfortable with the idea of a self-insert. I still am, to some degree. However, there was no denying that this protagonist was a reflection of myself, and like her, I had never had healthy emotional coping mechanisms. I had gotten by at first because I was blessed and ignorant in childhood, with no need for coping of any kind. When things started to change in high school, I found writing, and through it I found relief.
Whenever I couldn’t muster the emotions for my own circumstances, I would open a word document and write a scene imagining the things I wished I was feeling. I would take things to extremes, write about deaths or betrayals for the pure catharsis of it – as I got into the scene, I would forget my own dissociation, exhilarated instead by the desperation or devastation of my characters on the page. By the end of it, I would find that I could feel again, either an echo of my characters’ imagined agony or satisfaction at my progress on the draft.
I latched onto creative writing from then on, story after story conceptualized and put to paper, and my obsession with it established, I did what I do with every obsession: I studied. I read book after book, writing guides, tried the snowflake method for every story, analyzed word choice and sentence structure. I enjoyed literature class when no one else did. I co-founded a literary and visual arts magazine. I improved.
Thank God, I improved – honestly sometimes I read some of my older stuff and then have to go lie down for a bit.
Now that I’m in college and pretty happy with my life decisions up until this point, my reason for writing has changed once again. Now I write stories that I don’t think other people can or will tell.
This has many meanings – it means that I enjoy thinking up plots and concepts that are so ridiculous that no one else could come up with them (or want to write them). It also means that I write stories representing people or ideas that are often absent from popular media.
I’m sick of romance in every young adult medium, so I write stories without them. I noticed a lack of female characters in certain settings, so I write them in. I’m tired of predictable plots, so I subvert them.
There’s really no better feeling than when I successfully provide a new perspective to an unsuspecting audience.