I’ve mentioned that I always wanted to be a writer. I literally cannot remember a time when being an author wasn’t my super secret, most wanted career path. I answered the “what do you want to be when you grow up” with various responses, but being a writer was always something I craved. And I was sure to keep it secret because it was my desire and I didn’t want others encroaching on that territory. I don’t think it was the fame so much as the ability to create entire worlds just by imagination alone and then being able to bring others into that world be virtue of utilizing words. This is, by far, the most accurate reason for my excessive articulation. I know so many words, and utilize them, because of my writing capability and my reading comprehension. I mean, before writers were telling wannabe writers to read like crazy, I was already well on that train, hanging out and taking names.
But, I’ll let you in on a little secret, the real reason why I started writing was to escape.
I didn’t actively start writing down my worlds until nine, but I had been creating stories in my head for a good deal longer than that. I say, definitively, that I began when I was seven, but I know it was earlier than that. I would read a book and my eyes would grow too tired to continue, so I would shut off my light to fall asleep and let my imagination carry me away on the backs of unicorns, flying through the trees, or rescuing hapless damsels in distress and on the flip of that, being rescued as a hapless damsel in distress. I was writing and writing and writing all of these things in my head, as a kind of precursor until I started doing the real deal. The reason, though, that I began to write was a form of escapism. Y’see, as a small child, watching your dad die, it really evokes a lot of unknown emotions inside of you that you can’t handle. So, I escaped into worlds of my own creation.
My mom tried the escapism bit by getting me into dancing. I know that’s the reason I started ballet classes. It was a way to get me out of the house for an hour each week. I got exercise and I got to make friends (though not really because I was never the friendly type, more the wallflower type). But, while I enjoyed the weekly out-of-the-house adventures at my dance class, I was already well into doing that by writing stories in my head.
The places I created and the worlds I lived in, they were real to me. I could distinguish easily between reality and fantasy, of course, but they were very real. They were a place as real to me as the dance studio to get away from the constant negative energy fluctuating throughout our apartment. It wasn’t my parents’ fault for being angry and mad at each other and then, you know, continuing that with sadness and horror as we watched my father slowly die in front of us. So, I created a place where things like AIDS didn’t exist. I created entire homes and friends and strangers and creatures and places that didn’t have things like that to encroach and destroy so visibly. Sure. There was drama and there were problems to be overcome and there were arguments in those worlds and between those people, but they were always easily fixed. I just had to do a quick edit, a little addition and a little deletion, and ta-da! The problems were overcome and everyone would live happily ever after.
And yes, by the way, the “happily ever after” part stopped after the death of my father. I tended to leave the endings of my stories then rather ambiguous. And they got instantly darker.
But, besides creating entire worlds where I could escape from the world and my reality, I also created friends. I created people who would rescue me and take care of me. If I was walking through a wood, there would always be a little cottage on the other side with someone willing to listen to me cry or listen to me laugh. The characters I created were people who I loved and cherished in my own, childish way. There was evil afoot and we would have to defend the honor of a maiden or evil would be afoot and we had to slay that evil. It didn’t matter what it was. There were always characters around to hold my hand and tell me it would be okay. I never believed them because, you know, in a story-world of a child who is trying to contend with the very real problem of watching her father die, I knew nothing would ever be perfect. But, for a short while, perfection could be achieved.
And with the best friends in the whole world: the ones who understood me because they were my creations.
To this day, I remember all of the characters I have created. They’ve changed and morphed. They’ve made appearances in various short stories under real-people names. I created archetypal characters who could be easily morphed into a real person, if necessary, and usually, it was. I took the things I had learned as a child – the creation of worlds, situations, and people – and utilized it often in high school to better understand things or to help me get over some things. I would use them to help me emote the things I was feeling from the death of my father and onward without really knowing what it was I was feeling at the time. (Suffice it to say that a lot of my shorts in high school were, uh, pretty dark. And the fantasy world I still visited regularly, just as dark or more so.)
Someone said today that you can’t be a real writer if you remember all of your characters.
I remember all of mine. They were my friends, as I said. They were people who helped me through some of the darkest, most heinous moments of my life. They were people who hurt me and abused me, but ultimately, were shown the light so to speak. They’ve morphed and changed from evil to good and back again. They have held my hands. They have watched me shed tears. They have been the cause of my tears, sometimes. I remember all of them because they were more real to me than anyone I knew in reality some days. They were more real to me than the reality of watching a father die and watching a family fall apart at the seams because of it. They were more real to me than the reality of being a wallflower, misunderstood and bullied.
So, to anyone who thinks that you should write about people that you can ultimately throwaway, I say fuck you. To anyone who ever thought that you shouldn’t be able to remember plot lines and twists, you shouldn’t be able to remember when you started or why, for all the people who think that you shouldn’t be able to remember your first story, I say fuck you. I’m as real of a writer as anyone else and maybe even more so because I loved, hated, and bled along with my characters.