College was the first time I ever took writing seriously. Before then, writing had always been something to do when a wayward thought crept into my consciousness and took hold. A couple of sentences scribbled into a corner of a notebook during lectures and study sessions. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that writing really began to take shape as something I could do pretty well. Or at least I thought so at the time. I can remember the exact moment I realized how much fun writing, well story telling, could be for a community. It was a couple of weeks into a creative writing class when the professor tasked us to create a ten page fictional story. Being as this was one of the only classes that kept my interest I jumped at the opportunity. Before, writing had always seemed somewhat easier than it truly is. I was always able to create these elaborate scenes in my head that I thought would play out wonderfully in a novel, all I’d have to do is transfer the images from my imagination to paper. How wrong I was. This class was the first time I realized that good writing took time and a lot of editing. And editing. And editing. And editing. Sure it was simple enough to imagine a story about a deacon being blackmailed into murder but it is an entirely different world to have to sit down in front of a computer, or whatever your medium of choice, and to actually churn out the words. Those big dramatic tense moments in your mind look a lot less glamorous on paper. “He turned around, stunned at her betrayal.” Is no where close to the hair whipping action that happens in my imagination.
So here I am, with this writing class assignment of creating and writing a ten page short story, and sitting in front of a computer with a page and a half of words that I’m not even sure were meant to be next to each other in the English language and absolutely flabbergasted. How do people do this? How do authors and writers take characters and scenarios from their imagination and bring such life and depth to them? I remember reading works of art that would have me slammed to a chair as gut wrenching revelation after gut wrenching revelation shook the very ground I stood upon(Figuratively). And here I am with what amounts to a third graders colloquialisms wondering why I cant make the sentence “He was super sad” have any sort of passion or emotion behind it.
I did what any mediocre writer would do faced with a such a daunting task, I procrastinated. Fast forward a couple of nights and the story is due the next day. I frantically tapped away at my keyboard trying to get words on paper. I had finished the bulk of the story, the beginning, the middle, and the end, yet I was left with only 7 pages of work. While this was the story I wanted to write it wasn’t sufficient enough for the assignment. I hadn’t done much research on writing, it wasn’t yet my dream, and so I didn’t have the wealth of information the Internet provided. Not that it wasn’t there, it most certainly was, but I just wasn’t looking for it. The only two tips I knew were to always get the reader interested from the first sentence and to read your work out loud. The second tip has become one of the most invaluable tools in my writing arsenal. So there I was, a couple of nights before the assignment was due, reading my work out loud, and realizing it was pretty dry. Interesting? Maybe, but dry. There was no emotion nor depth to the story. A skeleton, if you will.
Cue my roommate and his brother. I’ll go into the invaluable assets my roommates were in my writing career in a future post but for now lets just say they were one of the biggest motivators in me becoming the writer I am today. As they sat there, fraggin noobs on Halo, they couldn’t help but overhear my rereading of scenes. To make a long story short we then embarked on a five hour long writing session in which each of us blurted out ideas. I was the one sitting at the computer typing yet it was the three of us who wrote that story. They provided me with cliffhangers, obstacles to overcome, and what I consider to be one of the best endings for my work at the time. After all the story I had written and the story that the three of us produced are so wildly different you wouldn’t even think to connect the two. Those couple of hours were the turning point that had me fall in love with writing. To sit there and toss a football back and forth as we all blurted out awesome scenes, or kick ass one liners, and watched them take shape was overwhelming. I can remember the excitement as an idea was shouted out, written down, touched up with fancy words, and read aloud as we celebrated with excitement of the badassery of this story. It was then that I realized the innate power that story telling had on the world.
I’d like to end this little About Me with a quote from one of my favorite musicians, P.O.S., that reads “This is for all the artists who know their work is just a drop in the ocean but do it anyway, hoping.” It’s a line that had truly resonated with me as I’ve grown as an artist. Writing is something I do purely out of love. The odds are astronomical that I will ever become the next Stephen King or Neil Gaiman yet it is something that I am going to continue to do until I no longer love the craft. And I hope that you too, reader, will find something that you love and hold onto it no matter how massive the odds are against you. You’ll never know what could have been if you never try.