They say you never forget your first. And it’s true. I very distinctly remember the first time I quit writing.
The sun was shining, but then again, it was April in Florida. There were clouds in the sky and the quad was virtually deserted. And by virtually, I mean myself and a few other members of the show choir. (Think Glee but with much less dancing and lame costumes.) My writing notebook was sitting on the top of the pile of books I had just deposited on the stone bench and I was thirsty.
I stood, walked across the quad, leaned over the fountain, took a sip, turned around and felt the pit of my stomach sink to the core of the Earth. Sitting in the spot I had just vacated was one of my friends, my writing notebook open as she read the dialogue aloud. Now, this would probably be a good time to point out that I have not always been the master, eh hem, student of voice that I am today. In fact, the conversation between the MC and her bestie was, in fact, nothing to brag about. But when you’re sixteen and you know in your heart you’re supposed to be a writer and you also possess that tortured artist soul, a friend reading your work aloud is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to you.
Reality check, turns out, being a Chilean miner is worse than this, but don’t tell my sixteen year old self that.
So, not only was my heart being laid out to everyone within hearing distance (one other person), but from where I stood, she was also mocking my writing. Okay, so sixteen year old me wouldn't actually cut someone. She would actually burst into tears, race across the quad, rip the notebook from a very surprised girl’s hand and sprint for the closest bathroom stall. (Sixteen year old me is very dramatic. Not a lot has changed in that area of my personality. Of course, grown up me has a switchblade app on her iPhone and isn't afraid to use it. Truth.)
Hidden in my lavatory hiding place, I reread the words I had written, but this time the voice was that of my classmate. In that instant, they seemed pathetic and childish. And that was the first time I quit writing.
It would be another seven years before I found the courage to write again. And quit again. And then start and quit one or two more times.
But what I (finally) realized is that, I am a writer and as such, I have made a covenant with the universe that I will willingly ask people to mock my dialogue, trash my plot lines, ridicule my character's flaws and basically tell me I suck for as long as I can string words into sentences. (I have also agreed to do homework for the rest of my life, but that's another post.) But if I listened to the people who, intentionally or unintentionally, tried to bring me down, I wouldn't be writing this blog post. I wouldn't be staring at the calendar, counting down the MONTHS (Holy crap!) to when my childhood dream finally comes true. So screw the people who say you aren't good enough. Prove them wrong. Study writing as a craft. And write. Everyday. Even if it’s about how you have nothing to write about. Maybe a writer whose imagination has shut down is the new MC of your adventure story. (Oh... better write that one down!)
Regardless of what people say you can or can’t do, BE FEARLESS with your writing life. Come to think of it, BE FEARLESS with your life. After all, you’re NOT a Chilean miner, so things could be worse!
Oh, and a quick update, several years later, thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with that friend who was reading my story. She told me that she remembered being so impressed with my writing when we were in high school.
I KNOW!!!! All those wasted years!