Monday, April 15, 2013

What Has Writing Done?

When I think about my life, I often consider how things might be different if I hadn't picked up writing in the way that I did. I don't mean writing as a child. I mean when I was alone and felt bullied and isolated at the age of fourteen. I immediately turned to writing, with no idea how to write a book. I dived in, getting lost in a fantasy world where my protagonist could travel to different worlds and redefine her destiny.

It seemed ideal. Living in her shoes and witnessing the lives of those around her, I felt empowered to keep facing my life. I didn't like school, but I had to go every day. Eventually, I found the courage to stand up for myself, and I think it had to do with realising that I could define who I was. That came from the book that only I could write. With that book, I don't know what would have happened.

Around the same time I finished writing that book, I was sitting my Junior Cert exams. Let me tell you: they are not fun. However, I was prepared for the English paper a bit better than I would have otherwise been. There's a creative writing aspect to it. I wrote a short story, I was happy with how I did, and I wasn't as panicky about the exams having found something I was comfortable with.

(In case you don't know, me and panicky go side-by-side when it comes to exams.)

By the time my 18th birthday came around, I had written two more books. One of them, Meet Sam, I wrote in a month for NaNoWriMo. My first time attempting it. I had a ton of work to do for school, but I never fell behind. When December reared it's cold and book-less face, I actually went up a grade in Maths. My theory: writing a book, while still working, taught me to use my brain more effectively. I had more energy and determination, and did better in school. I consider that a plus.

But wait, there's more. On the night of my 18th birthday party, that same book was taken by some friends and adapted into a short film. There was a lot of ad-libbing, some racism, and some private jokes, but they did it. I still consider it the best present I've ever received.

Less specific to anything else, though, was the relationship I formed over the years with the one and only Darren Shan. He taught me a lot about what it means to be a writer, through good times and bad, and it was his advice at how to keep on writing after I lost my job back in 2010 that kept me going. If I wasn't a writer, I would have been just another fan. I've kept up with his events over the years when I could, and was even blessed to get to attend the celebrations when he moved to a new publisher for his Zom-B books in July 2012.

If I skip the amount of time I spent writing material that never reached conclusion, I can arrive in 2010, summer after 1st Year in college. I wrote three novellas of varying quality and style. They helped me to explore some issues, like the new friends I had in college, the weight certain relationships had on my life, and certain existential issues that like to creep up on me from time to time. The same therapeutic effect is now felt by writing poetry, incidentally, though I still see the value in writing those stories.

The past couple of years have seen the biggest impacts of writing. I had a play on stage that helped me do a lot of good for an important charity (an act that would have been impossible if not for that very first book, or the wonderful actors in my college). I plucked up the courage shortly after it went on stage to put together a plan to write and publish a book in a week. The writing of that book, Balor Reborn, led to three more books in the year following, a set up for the next few months of my life, and my first ever published article in a magazine.

All I can say is, wow.

I doubt mean that to sound pompous or self-praising, but really, really, I never thought that would be my life. I never imagined getting to meet my hero or having something read by thousands or actually selling copies of books to people, and not because they know me. I haven't even touched upon the charity books or the Writers' Soc or the Literary Den. I haven't mentioned the wonderful friends I've made thanks to writing, or the things that we pulled off together.

I mean that. I really never expected any of this. Back when I first started writing that first book, I knew I wanted to be published. That was before the publishing industry changed. That was before I knew how to write. It was before I could set realistic expectations for what I could do as a writer.

Writing has changed my life, in ways I couldn't predict when I was fourteen. To think that the first book came from three short stories back when I was ten and eleven in primary school leaves me speechless. I didn't write them to write a book, later. I just saw the book there. I saw something in front of me, physically, and I knew it would be a book, and that it would change my life, because that's what the book was about: change.

Now, writing is at the very core of my identity. The things I've written have led to the greatest accomplishments in my life. My aspirations in the field of writing have led to the plans I have for the future. Writing makes the future less uncertain, the present less terrifying, and the past more understandable. I can't live without writing, because writing is the one thing that stayed with me, the one thing I've had with me that was mine, ever since I was a child.

Writing has made me the person I am today, and set me up to become the person I'll be in the future. Ten years ago I had finished the last of three stories that would become a book. Ten years from now..?

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