I’ve been on the fence about posting this awkward stage of my writing pursuits.
We left off last time, just before my senior year of high school, with me FINALLY realizing that I wanted to make writing my profession. I could skip ahead to when I finally was inspired to write Darcara and how I met David of The Crossover Alliance. But, like adolescence, the awkward, formative years, while not pretty to look at, are essential to who we become. And so, Part II is essential to this story.
At sixteen, I still thought “My Name is Charlie” was destined for commercial success and was submitting poetry to various sources of publication (one was accepted).
I also joined a class called Writing to Publish, from which I received a kind of achievement award at the end of the year. I wrote my first short stories in that class, one about a girl with an alternate personality that wanted to kill her and one about a girl whose spirit is left on earth to deal with the aftermath of her suicide, (which was even more theologically flawed than it sounds). I had a lot of practice that year and was bitter enough to simply not care how I did in the ordinary English class. I didn’t need to know how to write anything but fiction (right?).
I started about five novels and a memoir around that time, but nothing that had the kind of passion and joy I felt while writing “Charlie.”
Still, I was enjoying writing and seeing that others enjoyed my writing.
I got my first boyfriend that year (now my husband).
I continued to seek and understand more truth about Jesus.
I even decided to go to college, something I never even considered before.
By the time the summer was over, I realized I didn’t want to continue pursuing publication for “Charlie.” It was centered too much around my lingering struggles with self-hatred and, because I hadn’t learned how to cope with those when I wrote it, it had absolutely no themes of hope whatsoever. I figured that, if there was any redeeming portion of that story, I could rewrite and try to find it later (as far as I can tell, there are two scenes that may survive the editing process).
I went off to my first year at BIOLA in 2008 with an empty ‘documents’ folder, ready to fill it with new ideas.
Then it got hit with a metaphorical meteor.
Half way through my first semester in college, my parents separated (for the first time). It wasn’t a surprise really. I’d been anticipating the household collapse since the fourth grade. What completely derailed me was the surrounding circumstances that had me looking at my family, home, upbringing, and identity from a new perspective.
When the walls finally come crashing down, even if you know they will, that’s when you see the termites, mold, and cracks in the foundation. The poison that you only just realize has been making you sick.
I had to face things I hadn’t noticed before and try to heal wounds that, for years, I had been saying I didn’t have.
I left school after that semester, experiencing the dissociative episodes, social collapse, and excessive sleeping that accompanies severe depression.
I’ll probably take another time to describe more details of the next year and a half. It was the most horrible season of my entire life, but also the most miraculous. It will suffice for now to give you the relevant “Cliff’s Notes” and explain that I was going back home to a pile of rubble where nowhere I stepped was safe.
Writing became a way of coping, but it was no longer a prospect for my future. I didn’t have the mental capacity to write seriously anymore. The inspiration well was dry. What I did write was too personal for anyone else, and I was struggling with the fact that I hadn’t had a new, completable idea in four years.
The most memorable project I worked on in that time was a Christmas story where I imagined myself driving home and suddenly realizing the street had changed and I was driving on the same road but ten years earlier. I drove to the clothing store where I worked and realized it was once again the book store my family and I used to frequent. I wrote about myself going home with them and staying for a while, observing all the things that led up to the collapse and trying to be heard. It was good, time travel and all, but it was not for anyone but me.
I worked odd jobs, one at a hot-dog stand with a ridiculous uniform, and I waited for something to change. I applied for financial aid to pastry chef training, since I could still bake, making confections felt like I was able to accomplish something, and eating sugar made me feel less sad and insane, it was logic.
But then my therapist said the only helpful thing any therapist has ever said to me. He asked what I would do if I could have any job in the whole world. I laughed and said I’d want a chocolate factory on a boat. I could sail between ports selling various confections. I’d have one deck for the chocolatiering equipment and another for all the cats. When he stopped looking at me derisively I said, “I’d want to be a writer, but that will never happen.” To which he asked, “Why not?”
I had a hundred reasons but oddly the largest one, beside motivation and a general desire to do anything besides watch TV and draw weird stuff, was that I thought I needed a degree in writing to be a writer, and I thought a degree was unobtainable to someone who made minimum wage at two part-time jobs and whose family could barely make rent.
This was the time when I was spiraling toward self-destruction. I started drinking. I started blowing off and betraying people who loved me. I suppose I felt like I was somehow blackmailing God, showing him what he did to me by not just fixing the people around me and getting me away from them. It was an epic pity party, but I was the only one who RSVPed.
One day, I decided to ruin everything. It’s almost like I had a checklist of doings that would eliminate any good thing left in my life, and I did every one.
But my life didn’t end.
God was still there at the end, arms folded like a parent waiting for a kid to finish a tantrum saying, “Ya done?”
God didn’t give up on me. My boyfriend (now husband) didn’t give up on me. And I guess I realized I had a life worth not giving up on. That maybe I was a person worth not giving up on.
Then I got an interesting notification. In applying for financial aid, I had thrown BIOLA onto the list, just as a consideration for a distant, other-dimensional future. And somehow, I had enough for the whole 40K+ a year tuition (when combined with copious amounts of debt). I knew BIOLA was one place I could escape to without it looking to my family like I was escaping. And hey, I may even be able to be a writer after all. I re-applied. I got in. I went back.
Now, I have since learned that you don’t need a college degree to be a writer, but I needed an overhaul. I needed a change of scenery in the largest way possible. And it was a gift I didn’t deserve.
So, I worked harder than I ever had in school. I resolved to not get lower than a B in any Bible or English class, and succeeded in that goal, graduating with a 3.75 GPA.
I created my own style and system for writing, fiction and non-fiction. In fact, I started writing essays just for fun. My short-stories were well-received by classmates. My essays continued to get better feedback.
I had friends. I had fun. I could call myself a writer.
Even if there were still no ground-shaking novel ideas. Still not as much poetry coming out, since I didn’t have a bog of misery to put into verse. Still not a lot of time to read for pleasure. I had an idea of maybe starting a blog, but fiction writing was relegated to some distant, free-time filled future. And I was okay with that.
Just before my last year, I got married to my long-suffering, high school boyfriend. We found out I was pregnant a month before my graduation, and I became very content.
Perhaps too content.
I started a blog where I addressed all the things I was trying to process with God, so I was at least writing a little. I was grocery shopping, meal planning, housekeeping, and baby growing. I never wanted to be a working mom. I always figured I could write novels from home. But, if I didn’t have to, why would I?
I was still out of novel ideas, and pregnancy was not kind to me, so I didn’t do much in those 9 months. When my son was born, my husband was making (just barely) enough for us to live on, doing marketing for a vacation rental place. I could focus on taking care of my husband and son, and I was thrilled with that.
It’s just that God wasn’t thrilled with that. God wanted me to write. And he had to get my attention somehow.