I have two real pet-peeves. Well, ok, that is a blatant lie but for the sake of this article/note-thing, let’s just go with these two for now. So, pet-peeves. One: When people act geniunely interested in your life (typically upon first meeting you) and when discussion of your ambitions come up, they quickly respond to whatever you say with some douchey “Well, I had dreams once too,” type of saying or something equally as jackassey. The other pet-peeve is when people say, “I could never do that.” Sparing the traditionally motivating “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING IF YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO IT LOLZ ROFLCOPTER FTW!” crap (though it is true), this specifically relates to writing.
Make no mistake, it is hard. I am nowhere near even “moderately good” and yet I continue to plug away. Everybody has a story to tell. Ursula Le Guin said it best: “Yes. Certainly. Fiction writers, at least in their braver moments, do desire the truth: to know it, speak it, serve it. But they go about it in a peculiar and devious way, which consists in inventing persons, places and events which never did and never will exist or occur, and telling about these fictions in detail and at length and with a great deal of emotion, and then when they are done writing down this pack of lies, they say, There! That’s the truth!” Basically, good fiction attempts to address some present day “truths” by completely fabricating every single aspect of a story. That sounds difficult. Seriously, that makes my head spin. How about we try something else out. Good fiction is the direct result of a simple spark of inspiration as applied to a daydream. We all Daydream, we all “space-out,” and for the college age students out there, we all imaginatively procrastinate. In short, we all have an infinite number of stories to tell, the trouble is simply in the piecing together the fragments we connect with.
When I was in seventh grade, I moved to Des Moines from Cedar Falls. To keep a long and somewhat personal story as succinct as possible, I used to day dream a lot. Getting bullied in school in Cedar Falls for whatever reason lent itself to me being somewhat uninterested in anything that went on in the classroom and instead, fancying myself as a superhero who would save the world in countless ways. I hated writing all the way up until 8th grade. It was a chore and a very nonspecific one at that. In seventh grade, after the move to Des Moines, I kept the whole Daydreaming habit and would find a million different ways to save the world (or end it as my flare for the apocalyptic began about the month or so before Mom and I left Cedar Falls). My geography teacher (who was a complete dickbag anyway) used to call me out on “spacing off” in his class and would bring up how my grade was bad because I never paid attention. Joke was on him because I had an A (and in all fairness, the beautiful view his classroom windows offered made up for his incessantly pessimistic and overbearing conservative attitude… oh and the gigantic evil robot battles occuring in my mind were far more interesting than “look at that mountain range” and “…once again proof of the failure of liberal politics.” [One of these doesn’t belong in a classroom…]. I digress…). The next year was the year I put two and two together between my overactive imagination and writing. While my mechanics were ATROCIOUS (I recently found a short story I wrote in 8th grade and read it for shits and giggles… and promptly turned it into a drinking game it was so awful), I was off and running. Our final assignment in English that year was to turn in a 3-4 page creative writing story. I promptly handed in 24 pages and could not have been more proud (this was the story I just recently turned into a drinking game).
Fast forward to today. The mechanics have improved. The social commentary has become more pointed and more daring. The characters are far deeper. The “Big Bads” are more difficult to out right despise and the “Goodies” aren’t quite the symbol of purity and everything that is right with the world. All of this and the instant of inception stays constant; an overactive imagination. While the potent sexual allure of hydraulic, computerized, gigantic robots has shifted to a more curvaceous and sultry temptress with wit as sharp as a scalpel and an almost computerized precision with a handgun, the core concept remains. The next time you tell me you could never be a creative writer, know that you do a disservice to the individual lives and stories that flow through your mind every single moment of every single day. Yes, of course, one must address mechanical elements, voice, pacing, etc but when you boil all of that away, you are left with a utterly unique story that nobody else has ever or will ever tell. NEVER stop having dreams and never listen to the people who “once had dreams.”
Also, never let the bastards get you down. Inspiration comes from both good and bad. In a lot of ways, I thank the ass of a 6th grader kid who punched me right before our soccer picture and who called me a “fag” almost every day, because without that, I may have simply dismissed my imagination as a phase to be grown out of. Now, that doesn’t condone his actions (nor does it mean that I don’t write characters with his name and/or mannerisms and delight in the horrible things I put them through) but I can point back to those darker experiences in my life as something that planted the seeds of who I am today. Next time you space off, whether for good or bad reasons, I implore you to revel in the fact that you are, in fact, creating something so special that nobody else has thought of it quite like you.
Enjoy, you are a writer.
JP (Certified “Space Cadet”)