The Early Life of a Writer.

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.

Did you?

A Fabulous Animal Resembling a Horse with One Horn.

The above title is a quote from The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

Last night, after a particularly long and heavy time spent reading the Song of Ice and Fire series (A Game of Thrones books), I took myself a little nap. I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I’m lucky if I get anywhere between four to six hours of sleep. Whenever I contemplate putting the book I’m reading down, I ignore that desire and end up reading for another hour, two hours, three… So, I decided that my heavy-lidded eyes needed to close and I needed some peace and quiet. I slept for about an hour on the couch (TS informed me I was a “brat” because I had knocked him off the couch at one point, apparently – whoops). When I woke up, my fingers were itching because a muse had chosen me. I didn’t quite understand what the muse wanted, but I had the distinct desire to write about unicorns

Now, anyone who knows me should quite remember my unsung passion for the horned beasts. I say that it is unsung because I never really discussed it that I can recall. I do remember pretending that a herd of unicorns would follow me everywhere when I was very young. One of my favorite movies as a child (and still is) The Last Unicorn. I collected statuary of a unicorn nature as a teen. Whenever I saw one that took my fancy, and I had the money, I purchased it. Some were gifts from ex-boyfriends or family members and others were ones that I had purchased myself. I sat them proudly on the shelves in our home in Easthampton, I remember. They battled for supremacy with the Dachshund statues MEH’s mother bought for me over time. (The unicorns always won that one.) I had an image that a grandmother had stitched for me as a child that I loved more than anything: a unicorn with a castle in the moonlit background. Unfortunately, this image is gone (MEH destroyed it when he went back for his things before I could beg BFMA to hide it with her things) and the statues have broken throughout the myriad of moves. I have a thick, glass horse my mother bought me at a party (and my first horse related statue), an egg-shaped shell with a small unicorn within that dances to music, another partially broken statue, and maybe one or two little ones left. I can’t wait to begin to collect them again.

Anyway.

I’ve had the feeling of unicorns periodically, throughout my life. When the fever to write about them came upon me last night, I thought back to all the times in my life when they played a prominent part in my life. I think it was when I was the most lonely and the most upset that I turned to the beauty of a unicorn. I’m not sure. I don’t recall that imaginary herd of unicorns following me around before my father died. I don’t think I began to seriously collect the statues until after I was raped the first time. I think… in a way… by turning towards them, I was searching for an innocence that I had lost. Isn’t that what unicorns are supposed to represent? Innocence. Purity. What is it that Molly Grue says in The Last Unicorn? “And where were you twenty years ago? Ten years ago? Where were you when I was new? When I was one of those innocent young maidens you always come to? How dare you! How dare you come to me now, when I am this!” I think that in turning to them, I was always hoping to regain a lost part of my innocence.

But, last night, when the fevered fire of the muse overtook my aching fingers, I pulled out my little notebook that I carry with me (for when the muse hits me unawares) and began to write. I didn’t write about a fabulous beast, all in white. I didn’t write about it in the standard sense. There was no golden horn. There was no shimmery purity. There was only the blackness that is best seen in obsidian and jet. Those two stones, actually, are the very stones that I likened the beast I had been creating to, actually. I didn’t know why I had to write this little bit and why my head is filled with a fantasy after a time when the Age of Iron, the Age of Bronze has passed and the Age of Spirit has filled the land, the Age of Trees, the Age Beyond Technology. (This is, actually, why I wanted to start looking into Algonquin legends and history, me thinks, besides the desire to learn if it has a part in my spiritual practice.) Methinks, I’ve been reading too much in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but it doesn’t matter where the story came from.

It’s here.

I do wonder, though, why it is a unicorn now when it was not a unicorn before. I mean, I’ve always been writing something or another. Anyone who knows me from high school can say so. The Shaggy Ex-boyfriend, BFTX, my mother… I was always writing something or another. Those stories, or some of them at least, still follow me around today and have been saved, in part, on this very laptop. Not a single time has anything like a unicorn entered those tales. Some of them are my way of working through past hurts and past pains, such as my rape. Others are my trying to make sense of TSO’s betrayal. Some others still are the remembered moments that came after high school. And still others are all about pain. In not a single thing has there ever been anything as magnificent and perfect as a unicorn.

And honestly, if it was so important, why didn’t I take up that particular beast when I was searching for a novel to write? Instead, I chose vampires, which is something that anyone who is anyone knows how much I love and admire. I’ve been reading about them, watching their movies, and studying them for years. I have little to no knowledge about unicorns except for what I’ve read in bits and pieces, seen in images, held in my hands as I bought a new statue or was gifted one, and what lives in my gut. So, why now? What is it about this moment in time that has said, Put down the vampires and turn to the bestiary that you loved as a kid.

I don’t know. All I do know? It’s kind of neat.