My Writer's Journey is a Light Switch
I've been an off-and-on author most of my life. The non-committal type that's just insecure about how this beautiful dream could ever come true. Many of the greats struggled along their journey toward their goals. Today, I thought I would share my own. Maybe some of you can relate, and maybe someone out there might flip their own light switch back up.
When I started learning how to read in first grade, my mom laughed at me because I complained about the books being too boring. By the time sentences joined the curriculum, I said I would make better ones. You see, my father had spoiled me with bedtime stories from books like The Chronicles of Narnia, Aesop's Fables, and The Children's Book of Virtue's. I had followed the Hero's Journey so many times, and I fell in love with epics, like Greek ones. I was still in third grade, and there's was more to come.
The older I got, the more I enjoyed making stories of my own. I loved the look on my parents' faces when they read over my handwritten work. I kept a notebook close by to jot down story ideas, so I wouldn't forget while I was doing school work. Most of it turned into short synopses or snap shot glances full of characters, plot ideas, and world mechanics.
Anytime I was near a typewriter, I pretended to be Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote, writing my next bestseller. I typed up a few one-page stories on those actually that are lost in my mother's treasures somewhere in her house. I even got into puppets, and I wrote scripts that I preformed for kids I babysat and my own little sisters.
I got to do all of this because I was home schooled, you see. When it was time to start sixth grade, my mother couldn't handle keeping track of curriculum and deadlines for testing. She had developed Postpartum Depression after one of my sisters' births. We aren't sure when, but it changed her into a very different person, since it went untreated. We had a falling out, and it became a very toxic relationship that I still wish I could mend to this day. Anyway, we were enrolled in a private school... a Baptist based school. Ugh! Once I sat in the classroom, I felt my creativity sapped away by the monotony of the repressed environment. I wasn't much of a fan as it was, and my parents realized too late that I had lost all interest in what they believed was my passion in life.
I still read though. Star Wars was my obsession for the most part. I loved the complexity of the story line and conflict. The characters felt so real to me, and I felt deeply connected to a few: Han, Luke, and Leia mostly. I picked up the novels from the library near my house because my school was too rigid to offer non-Christian books on their shelves. I got involved in the lore of the Jedi and Sith, and in seventh grade, I voiced my desire to go to the Jedi Academy in Australia.
My dad became concerned that I was losing touch with reality, especially when I was talking about the morals and spirituality of the Force at the age of thirteen. He made me remove my padawan braid and get rid of my lightsaber drafts. I also got a Bible lecture from the perspective of a Southern Baptist, minister's son. Needless to say, the rest of that year and the next were dry and dull creatively, and I developed a mild depression. I only got to keep one run from my Star Wars collection, the Thrawn Trilogy, which I still own to this day because my first fantasy wife appeared in it!
With a void left from leaving my imaginative adventures behind, I tried to fit in with my peer group. It didn't take me long to discover how different I was. I didn't care for the same TV shows, since I hadn't been allowed to watch most of them. I didn't follow celebrities because that was idol worship in our church. Not joking. I only really liked three boy bands and two pop idols because I was too busy listening to Celine Dion, The Temptations, and The Beach Boys. The only radio station I could listen to was K-Love, and I would get chewed out for listening to secular music because the lyrics were poisoning my soul. Needless to say, I lived in a very controlled environment among lesser controlled teenagers. It was annoying, and I became a hermit.
I wanted to talk about stories. I wanted to talk about Narnia, but everyone else was on the Hogwarts Train, which was witchcraft. My mother even returned the Sorcerer's Stone book I had been given for my birthday. When The Lord of the Rings movies came out, I wanted to read the books, but my mother wouldn't let me because it was "too dark". Comics seemed fun, but I didn't want to get in the middle of 'who would win' debates. That left me with my dad and I to talk about our favorite events. It was a rough ride, struggling with isolation and the desire for friendship. I always had friends in books though, and Nancy Drew, Frank and Joe Hardy, and Steve Rodgers cheered me up as best they could.
It wasn't until the second semester of eighth grade that I got inspired to pick up a story of my own again. My dad couldn't afford the tuition after his early retirement from the Navy, so we moved to public school halfway through the year. I had made a new friends there, and one of them gave me a nickname. I had never had one before, but what I didn't realize was that he used nicknames in stories about adventures with his friends. I read one of them, and when I started editing it, he asked if I was a writer, too. I admitted it had been a while, but everyone at the lunch table insisted that I write something. I was really into X-Men at the time, so I made a mutant story, asking everyone to give me the power they wanted. It got to fifty chapters before a friend borrowed it to read when we had to evacuate for a hurricane. It got thrown out by her father on accident at the hotel, and it crushed me.
I stopped writing again, and I fell into a deep depression. I had lived with moderate pain in my legs for most of my young life already, but a head injury in a car accident gifted me with vertigo and migraines. The Sun and I had to break up because I became light sensitive as well. The depression let to a psychosomatic condition that made one of the a fore mentioned conditions flare up badly whenever I had an anxiety attack. Also, my mother had woven an intricately planned plot to trick my father into leaving the state, so she could divorce him, claiming he was abusing her and he needed to repent if he wanted to save their marriage. At this point, I was finishing my freshman year of high school, and in one of my darkest moments of the crazy move from my first, true home, I looked to a grayed, rainy sky...
... and a new story sparked in my mind. I didn't fully flesh it out for years, but the character that had come to life tried to comfort me with a sad smile. His name was Rain, and he was the anthropomorphic personification of precipitation. He was kind of emotional, but that meant he could empathize with my feelings brimming under the numb that had settled in. The rest of that summer vacation, I got to know Rain better and his friends on Buyan Island. I had found that my own stories could comfort me though, and that would become a powerful outlet in the years to come.
I started dabbling in fan fiction writing. I even made some cash, writing fan fiction with friend's original characters into their favorite fandoms. While I was exercising my writing skill, it wasn't as fun, especially when I learned how terrible Mary and Larry Sue could be. I decided that I needed a new project, since I didn't know where Rain was going at the time. I came up with two during sophomore year that I was quite passionate about: Eclipse and Dodekatheon. While I loved all my stories, my depression still pulled me away from them for lengthy periods of time, and after a sexual assault, anger took root at all the chaos in my life up to that point. It was not a pretty time for me.
Then, and I kid you not, a light glowed in a doorway that started to pacify me. There was a girl at my high school that I had thought was pretty, but I never said anything to her, thinking she was out of my league. Plus, I had just gotten out of a nasty rebound, where I was the rebound. A friend invited me to her weekend, sleepover, birthday party, which I almost didn't get to leave my mother's car because their roommate had pagan bumper stickers. That was a fun time convincing her they weren't witches... and that was a lie. When I got overwhelmed by the loud chatter of teenagers in an enclosed space, my friend sent me up to her room, telling me to write for a bit. Someone arrived while I was up there and came to the room I was in to drop her bag off. There she stood in the door, apologizing for disturbing me... my muse.
Her name was Chelsea Anne Wheeler, and I could literally see light radiating off of her in my friend's doorway. The huge pit in my chest faded away when she looked at me, and I suddenly wanted to be around her the whole weekend. Suddenly, my mind was clear to write. Whenever I had my fight-or-flight urges, she had a way of relaxing me. She was into a lot of the same anime I was, and we even started hanging out to watch new ones together. We started dating that spring, and we had an activity that revived something I hadn't done since my dad chewed me out as a kid: Role Play Improv.
Chelsea liked stories, too, but she had trouble writing them down. She opted to playing out the stories with me, and we created thrilling worlds and adventures on the weekends at her grandparents' house. Her grandmother saw my mom's apartment was a hording mess, and while Chelsea wasn't allowed to come over after that, she invited me to come to their place, where I got warm dinners at a family table in clean house. My mom's mother had just died as well, so their family opened their hearts to me. It was a healing experience that gave my hope and inspiration to write more wholesome stories once again.
When I graduated, Chelsea and I tried a long-distance relationship while I moved in with my dad on the opposite side of the country. I created a new story there, Thicker than Blood, but my dad's new wife and I didn't not click the way she had with my sisters. I was a demiromantic transman, and she wasn't exactly the sensitive type. My dad and I clashed as well, since I had changed from the distance between us during the divorce. He still loved me, but he seemed to agree that I wasn't happy living in California. I dropped out of college after the first year to go back home, when my mom promised to convert her garage into a room for me. I thought I could work a day job and work on writing in my off time... Things did not go as planned.
Long story short, which I know doesn't mean much when this blog is already this long, my mother didn't not keep her promise, but I couldn't keep a roommate. I was forced to move into her tiny house with my sisters. Chelsea and I were still together, but she was concerned for me. living with my mother and her toxic personality. By this point, I had proposed, and she had accepted. We wanted our own lives, but between mom and my toxic, reception job, there was no writing getting done.
When Chelsea and I finally found a place two years later, I got my groove back! We got to display our fandom wares out in the open, so we enjoyed our freedom to express ourselves. There were some ups and downs with finances, and my creative flow moved with it. However, I finally put my foot down and made time away from socializing seven years down the road. That brings me to a year ago, and my discovery of an editor and Inkitt...
Now, I'm putting my anxiety aside to face the audience I wish to reach. I've never been a fan of bosses, so I chose the independent route. Inkitt gave me freedom and a critique avenue I desperately needed. I have gotten some valuable feedback that has improved my approach, but I'm still writing all over the genre board. Writing is my therapeutic escape from my day job, but Chelsea is Mrs. Winchester now. She has my back and still inspires me everyday we have together.
I hope sharing this lengthy post helped at least one person. My late father always told me that my greatest trials and tests are an opportunity to guide someone through their own. Thank you for reading. Until next post, be blessed. -J