Monday, January 25, 2010

Starting Your Life in the Middle of Your Life

...and this is your life, writers.

Or, maybe not. It's my life. But I bet you'll see similarities in our paths through the universe. We're artists, after all, aren't we? You can boil down universal callings to bare minimums: Teacher. Healer. Leader. And so on. One of these basic concepts is The Artist. This isn't a path you travel lightly; it's not a life of whim and circumstance. It's a path that's given to you by a higher power, not something you choose for yourself. It's hard, and frustrating, and lonely. You don't fall in love with it for the money or the fame or the glamor. But in the end you've made your mark, not just on your immediate surroundings but on the people who've experienced your work. They'll carry that influence with them, and the ripples of your vision will carry out into infinity. Your art is the stone you cast into the pool of humanity... how many people will those ripples touch? It's indefinite.

I wrote my first "book" at the age of four. It was a thin volume covered in green construction paper; two leprechauns danced jauntily on the cover. The whole story was less than ten pages in length, complete with illustrations. But even back then, I was hooked. Making up stories filled my days, took precedence in my mind above almost everything else. I took my "book" to my mother and told her I wanted to be a writer when I grew up (she still has it; guess I got my romantic nature from her, eh?). I've repeated that same ambition countless times since that day, although I've learned that growing up is probably not my immediate future... but that's all right, I'd trade normalcy and complacency for vision and substance every time.

I grew up with an aptitude for creating the written word. I attended classes; I went to schools for talented children. I received a scholarship to college for an original monologue I'd written. I was driven to be better, cleaner, faster, punchier. I out-wrote the majority of my fellow students, but still wasn't satisfied. My attention deficit disorder, coupled with other issues, defeated my passion for a long time. It was as if I had a huge compass inside me, and it was constantly turning, searching for true north. I turned away from writing for a few years, went on to living my life and paying my bills and being as good of a person as I could be (which, unfortunately, was never as good as I wanted to be). For a long time I ignored that restless turning of the compass needle, concerning myself more with fitting into the molds built for me by my family and society itself.

Meltdown ensued.

Five years on the other side of the break - the one that finally showed me I had no choice but to honor the needs and desires of my real self, and forget what society and the rest of the world wanted for me - I look back and carefully survey the road I've traveled, the perils I've faced. And I can honestly say I've come out the stronger, with more material than ever to use. I've thrown myself back into writing over the last three years, and it's going well. I've been published four times, and I am working on the first draft of a novel. It's the scariest thing I've done in a long time, but I'm about halfway through it, and it's going really well.

I can't promise wisdom in this blog. I can't even promise consistency - it might be weeks or even months between updates. But I can promise you honesty, reader - over the course of my path, I've learned that it's one of the most important factors in a person's life. Honesty dictated to me, finally, that I had to stand up and be the person I'm supposed to be or fall down and die. Never being a quitter, I decided to stand up and write.

This is the journey... come with me, why don't you? I could use some company on the way. I need a good listener, too; I hope you're ready for some stories.

I've got too many of them to tell to just keep my mouth shut anymore.


ggray said...

Well said! You've captured it - that's for sure. This line is great: "It was as if I had a huge compass inside me, and it was constantly turning, searching for true north."

I'm looking for lots more stories.

Steel Magnolia said...

I, too, am seeking to find my best self outside my comfort zone. Cheers to our journeys, our similarities and the inspiration!