“To find the journey’s end in every step of the road...is wisdom.” - Emerson
I wrote my first historical fiction when I was eleven, about 15 handwritten pages that each contained a chapter with a different narrator. All lived around Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889, and each witnessed an event attached to the flood that destroyed the town. The sixth-grade teacher who oversaw the writing club was deeply impressed. That story, now lost, represents my first writing. I choose it for my origin because I had never before put so much effort into a piece of writing, or experimented with a narrative in any way, or put written anything I would later remember. Since my first novel (in-progress) is also historical fiction, recollecting my Johnstown flood story also feels like drawing a circle.
It is a circle with several missing pieces and drawn over many years, though. In high school I wrote some poetry and in early college some short stories (hopefully unremembered by anyone, as they were awful), and then I did not write anything for a long time. I never took a creative writing class. Five or six years after graduation I picked at an abortive attempt at a novel for a few months; a couple years after that I labored on an essay that I submitted to a few journals, but I understood too little about both writing and publication to succeed. In the years after that piece, I dabbled with ten-minute plays.
In all these phases, I hoped for an editor to accept my work for publication. I have never expected to make a living with writing – I am a teacher, and happily so – but I wanted validation and an audience. Those desires, in hindsight, missed the point of writing because I valued the goal above the process.
Writing has provided me with a place of escape and control. I resumed writing in October 2019, and when March and the pandemic struck, writing became vital in ways I had not expected. It provided me with an ongoing project when so many aspects of life had ceased, and with time eddying endlessly and case counts swallowing attention and energy, writing presented a solvable puzzle. A sentence must be rearranged, a paragraph shortened; a bit of description must slow the pacing of the dialogue, or a word switched to further shade the phrase’s meaning. A story is unlocked one absorbing step at a time, and entering into this work with all my mind brings a clarity and a freshness that I treasure.
My writing goals have changed. I received the publication I sought: I’ll confess that valuing the process over the prize became a great deal easier with that particular primate wrested from my back. I have stories and poems still looking for homes and currently under review by editors; I hope they find the light of day soon, but beyond my willingness to prep more submissions, that is out of my control. I have 68,000 words of a projected 90,000 words of that novel written, and I want to finish. I anticipate writing the final sentences of The Ghosts on the Glass early in the summer of 2022. I’ll spend the remainder of the summer editing and sending out my first queries to agents. I do not know what will happen, but I will take my shot. Perhaps stars will align and a press will publish my novel; perhaps my search will end a couple years and dozens of rejections later, and I will publish myself. Regardless, the experience has been a rewarding one, and I will have received no less pride and no fewer moments of calm and clearness from my writing.
Interview with a Scribbling Sanguisage
1.) When did you begin to write?
To be horrendously honest, and even after embarrassingly painstaking memory-wracking, I don't recall when I began writing specifically. Must've been way back. Before sanguisage was an obsolete word, at least. I don't even remember why I started writing, or whose metaphorical blood I sucked to get to this point; engorged and swollen with the half-forgotten passions of thousands of scintillating thinkers who came before my senseless floundering. The enterprise of writing anything at all seems futile at times, in the face of so many linguistic geniuses, both archaic and contemporary, to whose heights I cannot hope to aspire. But that's the thing about writing, isn't it? More of a compulsion or an instinct; seldom ever a rational choice. Like love in that respect.
2.) What does writing give back to you?
Life. The universe. Despair and bliss. Everything in between. Indeed I have spent many a lengthy insomniac night yearning for the touch of words upon my blank but intrinsically-lecherous mind-canvas. To pass the time, I grow fat on the thoughts of past masters, taking months to digest them fully. But, tumescent as I am, I still hunger; to connect, to understand, and to play with new thoughts; each elementary phrase and far-grasped-at wording a precious gift from unknown philological deities (or the past-imbibed blood of romantics) which I regurgitate here in my shamefully egotistical ductus.
But if you'll allow me a moment of simpering cheesiness:
I was lonely you see, before this. I still am (it's incurable) but it's not nearly as bad as it was. You've nourished me. Writing, here, on Prose, has given me the best friends a sybaritic leech could ever dream of. Better in fact. It was through your hopeful and courageous eyes that I have for the first time been viewed as a possibly medicinal curiosity instead of purely a pleasantly self-effacing parasite. And, though some newfangled scientific advances might at any moment prove me obsolete without a shadow of doubt, it is still a thing of beauty; a fleeting touch of ecstasy; to entertain the notion that something about me could be healful or otherwise pleasurable to you; that my slimy introspection could be let loose upon your exceedingly generous souls and result in such fun and worthwhile banter. I thank you, fellow Prosers, sincerely. I thank you.
3.) What is your ultimate writing goal?
The impossible. To have and effectively (or at least enjoyably) communicate an original thought or idea. We all know this goal is preposterous. Why, even this post (and to a larger extent this very answer) was heavily influenced and shamelessly inspired by the other entries to this same challenge. But I don't want to attain my unattainable after all; I want to admire, to aspire, to reach, but not to reach, if you take my meaning...
For, original thoughts are like virgins in a way; as soon as you have them you defile their defining characteristic.
1. I grew up with a brother who wrote and gained some fame at The Writers Workshop as a founding member of the Actualist Movement in the 1970s graduating with the first ever degree in poetry from The University of Iowa. I was always considered the graphic artist in the family. I began writing in high school and in college took on English as a double major but hide it as my brother's fame flared bright for a momentary decade then fizzled as he refused to be anything but true to his art. I got into a marketing career in the 1980s for my graphic background but then was recognized for my versatility being able to write advertising, technical manuals and things in between. My brother said I was a sell-out. My parents died and never knew my secret.
2. Writing is my midnight friend. Putting swirling emotions down and reading them back to myself seemed enough until I found Prose in 2015. Here you can not only say it loud and uncensored - vomiting out your heart to bleed writhing on the page - but if you keep at it being true to yourself, you'll get feedback. Prose a video game where you get to arrange the letters and sometimes bells ring and hearts fly...or at other times you just get to toss your thoughts, feelings, opinions out of your head and only get crickets...but no matter...the real prize is that you become better in every way with every word you write. The truest beauty is when you feel words flow from someplace outside yourself, linked into the great creative oversoul where you indeed become just the conduit.
3. Goals change as you and the world around you changes. In marketing, my words have been published countless times without attribution. In an effort to bouy my brother, I published tangible books for him and older poets. I also worked with a foundation that published real books for those with savant talents trapped in profound mental and physical disabilities. There is nothing like presenting someone with a box of their work published into small but spined paperbacks bearing their name to change them instantly from an outcast to an author. Now the age of affordable short-run publishing has dissolved and I've retired to just a on-again/off-again presence here to enjoy simple freedom of expression...and perhaps scatter some seed on good soil.
I put this off long enough
When did you begin to write?
I have always written. And I don't mean since I started writing the letters of the alphabet or my name or something obvious. I'm talking 7 or 8 years old. It was around the time that I remember I started doing any sort of debating and public speaking that actually made sense. I wrote all of the things I said myself. And there have been many more speeches and logical papers after that.
So the question I want to answer is when I started doing creative writing.
It was in grade 9. I remember I started to write a play, but then some mean senior, in pretense of being interested in my work, acted my play out for me to see how stupid it was. You know all those bracketed details, like (light dims, she exists)? Yeah, I didn't really pay attention to those. So if my character was standing by the door at the start of the entire play and I didn't mention that she moved, this senior remained by the door. They had a good laugh about that one. So I quit and only did creative writing when it was an English assignment.
Anyway, the fact that I'm here right now is pretty much proof that I got over that.
What does writing give back to you?
I hate to say it but I'm going say it. I've achieved many things in my life, and it feels I only care about those things that I've achieved because other people care about those things. What I'm saying is, I've never been scared of failure. When I fail, I personally don't care, I just want to learn and move on. But then what I wind up doing is beating myself up because I know that the people around me, that "believe" in me, would be disappointed. I don't know if you understand what I mean, but yeah, that's it. Writing is that one thing that I can fail and succeed at for myself, and not for other people. And that's what writing gives back to me, the ability to openly not be scared of failure. Then there's the satisfaction when I get it just right. It makes me feel good about myself.
What is your ultimate writing goal?
My ultimate writing goal is to never stop writing. I know how I get with things that are constant, I start wanting out and drowning my mental health in far fetched dreams. I don't want writing to be like that. I don't ever want to stop writing.
My ultimate SMART (specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound) writing goal is to get published, and to be part of turning my books into movies. I love watching the movies of books that I've already read, even though some of the movies suck. And photography is a major interest area for me. So my goal is to one day combine my two major interests and make something great out of it.
Yeah, that's it.
I began writing as soon as I was able. Making up songs. Stories. Characters. Worlds.
I enjoy the craft, adding my faith and message into every piece and sharing with others. Even if I am the only one who ever reads, hears, or appreciates my work, it is indeed a joy.
My ultimate goal is to finally get myself to a position where I am not frantically running around every which way putting my own projects on the back burner. Somehow, I wish I could catch up with everything and then have a nice, quiet time where I can write out what's floating around in my brain, edit the words that are already out, organize it all, and publish to be read, even if for free, books in every genre. Something for every soul. Even if no one picks up a single page, I have these stories bursting at the seams of my brain and clawing at the cusp of my heart to be released out into the world. This is why I publish short stories. Snippets of works that have been dancing along in my infinite imagination for years. They've grown with me and matured with me. Often I find new friends or things I've never seen before. Other times, I unearth tales long lost from childhood. All genres. All stories. A host of characters.
Even other types of writing... songs, for example. I have hundreds of them, but I hardly have time to stop and actually record my voice singing them, or compose the music and piece together the track. But I love music, and these songs yearn to be propelled into the flow of the wind as it wisps through the leaves of trees on an autumn day. They cry to be carried along with the smell of marshmallows being roasted at a winter bonfire. They desire to join the tweets of birds in spring and chirp with crickets in the dead of a summer night.
I once kept a journal, and many believe I should keep a blog... oh, but dear time. Dear time eludes me. Even now, when I am penning this rant, there are things to be done. I shall end here. God bless you all, and one day, perhaps, my dream may come to pass.
Until then, be it short stories, quick poems, social posts, or rants,
I must write.
I must write.
I must write.
vomiting letters into words like a monkey mashing into the keyboard
1. i guess i began when i wrote my first word. it was likely my name, in barely a scribble on a page that had the letters in a connect-the-dot fashion.
2. writing has given me ability to connect dots. like how similar societal progression is to dna. first, it is replicated. then transcribed. then translated. then, it is destroyed. first, we had fire. which we shared and replicated for others to benefit from. then we had drawings on walls, based on stories told by the fireside. then we had intellectuals gather and people transcribed their conversations, and this has stood as the basis of government and law making. but the way it was written then isn't understood now, so we need classes to translate it into modern tongue. and soon, it will be destroyed.
3. i want to write a sci-fi.
writing writing writing
i) when i began to daydream
ii) as someone with sever depression and memory loss, concrete memories that i can visit no matter how long it's been
iii) to create an art that outlives me!
My Anchor, Words
I haven’t always loved words. I was homeschooled my whole life, and without the comparison of other kids my age, I didn’t know what I was good or bad at–a double-edged sword, to be sure. To me, writing was not a joy but merely a dull task to be gotten through. And it was many years before I would recognize the potential in my own work.
Then, at age fourteen, I started a blog–mostly inspirational-type stuff written for other teenagers. It felt like a calling. As I published more and more posts, I began to recognize the sacredness of what I was doing. My readers were encouraged by the things I wrote, and it seemed to make a difference in their lives. But the person that was changed the most by my writing was me. People were going to read what I wrote, so it mattered that I wrote truth effectively and elegantly. My communication skills grew by leaps and bounds.
Four years later, I was a freshman at college in an English class. I had not yet learned how to cram, so I stayed up half the night working on that first essay with little success. The next morning, when I woke up and returned to it, the words finally flowed. But I was so tired I hardly knew what I was saying, which made me think it must not be great. To my surprise, when my professor gave back my essay a week later, he told me that it was a solid paper. I was elated.
That first essay went well, but it was the best one I wrote all semester long. What I would later learn was a severe bout of depression–a battle I’ve faced since I was ten years old–swept across my life, fogging my mind and making it impossible for me to think clearly for months. In class discussions, I struggled to form sentences–only to forget them when they were halfway out my mouth. Writing essays was a nightmare, as I stared at my laptop screen for hours, trying in vain to put my jumbled thoughts into words.
And yet, it was words that sustained me in those days–not my words, but the words of others. I might not be able to put a sentence together, but I could still quote Bible verses, bits of poetry, and lines from movies that I had once memorized. What others had written, giving their souls on paper, anchored me. Their labor was what kept me from drifting away.
At the end of the semester, I was diagnosed with depression and prescribed some tiny white pills that I still take two years later. The medicine cleared the fog in my mind, and finally, I could glimpse the light. I started my second English class, and this time, I could finally find the right words and put them together in a way that was satisfying. My professor encouraged me and helped me to improve, and for the first time in my life, I realized that my writing might actually be good.
Regardless of whether or not I’m a good writer today, I still love it. It isn’t my goal to ever make any kind of money off my writing, but that doesn’t matter to me, because the words are still intrinsically valuable. They gave me life when I was drowning, and now, I have found my own words and use them to ground me. And I hope that, as I write and share more, my words might be the lifesaver that gives hope to others.
Writing Is My Passion
For me, writing didn't begin by actually writing, it began with making up stories in my head when I was little. I couldn't even tell you at what age it started, but I do remember how my imagination always went wild, how I always made up scenarios in my head, or how I always enjoyed telling stories to everyone else. Most parents have a bedtime story for their children but in our house, I had my own bedtime stories for my parents. As a little kid, I didn't really acknowledge that I had a talent, I thought the stories always making themselves up in my head were just that, ideas in my head that everyone had. Growing older, I started reading the books we had to read for school. I started to realise how much I enjoyed them, and I found myself imagining having a book of my own writing. I began to understand my passion for writing when I was around thirteen, when me and my friends tried it for fun. We would write childish fanfiction or stupid short stories. Until they grew out of it and we stopped writing together. But I didn't stop there. I had to go on, even if at times I just wanted to give up, even if I sometimes thought I wasn’t good enough, I couldn't stop. I'm twenty-three now and my passion for writing is only getting stronger with every day that passes.
Writing is my kind of therapy. A kind of escapism that I use to get away from the world for a while. It's like when I have so much to say, but I can't form the words out loud, I write. It's where I can say anything on my mind without thinking twice about it. It's the only time when I can actually be myself. There are times in my life when I feel like nothing matters anymore, when nothing makes sense, and when I think my life can't get any worse, at those times, I just write. I just write and suddenly the world doesn't exist anymore. I write and all my worries and problems fade away along with reality. I write and I can live any life that I want, go anywhere that I dream of, or be anyone that I want to be. All kinds of feelings would slip away with every word that I write and at the end, nothing remains but feeling at peace. Writing literally got me through the worst times of my life. I like a lot of things. I like being a dentist. I like taking pictures of stuff. And of course, I like reading. But writing is the only thing that I am sure of. Writing is the only thing that makes me feel whole.
When it comes to writing, I usually do it for myself. I do it because I always have so many thoughts in my mind, so many ideas that I just need to get down on paper. My mind is always crammed with new characters and new plots and I’d like nothing more than to make all of those into books. I dream of having my voice heard someday. I dream of finishing that one novel that’s been eating me up for years. And I dream of having at least one person read my book and feel like they can escape from their life for a while, forget about their problems, and just feel at peace.
I was twelve and submerged in the hormonal morass that is adolescence. I was an overachiever - exceptional student (adored by teachers, cursed by my peers), a ballerina studying at one of the best ballet schools in NYC, a model, an actress, an avid reader...and I was rapidly becoming a loner full of self-loathing.
I was the only child of color in my elementary and dance schools. The only child of a single mom in a neighborhood where large families were the norm and divorce was taboo. The little-me of an alcoholic father who could not love himself. I was too sensitive, too emotional, too concerned with what others thought of me.
A marble black and white, college-ruled notebook (the first of dozens) became my confidant, my holder of secrets and fears, of dreams and desires. Of sappy, lovesick poetry. Of philosophical musings and political reflections. My writing became a source of both self-discovery and catharsis.
As an adult, my journal writing transitioned to creative writing, especially after I married and my husband thought he should be able to read my journals. I kept a journal of my son’s life from birth to eighteen, but have not kept one of my personal journey in thirty years.
Instead, I have boxes full of novels I spent some fifteen years writing and re-writing, as I wrestled with the myriad trials of career, marriage, family, and child-rearing as well as mulptile suicides that somehow stayed the razors in my hand while lighting creative fires.
Writing made my life bearable.
It still does.
Earlier this month, I made my mom cry after she read a piece that had won a challenge on Prose. Her response made me happy. It was the first time she reacted so strongly to one of my stories.
I'd like to do that again.