The other day while I was browsing the morning blog posts, I came across this one. In this post the author (whose actual name I cannot find on his blog) talks about the book The Artist’s Way. Specifically, he talks about the first step of the book which asks the reader to examine negative people/feelings/occurrences/etc in their life that have prevented them from reaching their full potential. The author of the blog post gave the example of being ashamed of his poor penmanship as a child.
That got me thinking about little things that affected me, growing up as a kid who wanted to be a writer. I was quickly able to think of two examples of things that were said to me, and one example of a choice I made that I believe have negatively affected my forward motion as a writer.
– When I was quite young and just really getting into writing, I used to spend a lot of time laying on my grandparent’s floor, scribbling in a notebook. Practically every time I did this someone (my grandmother, an aunt, an older cousin) would make a comment about how I was always writing and maybe I’d become a journalist when I grew up. It was meant as a compliment, I’m sure, but as a kid it boiled my blood because I had absolutely no interest in journalism. All I wanted was to write fiction, and I felt that by suggesting I become anything but a fiction writer, they were doubting my ability. As a (perhaps overly-) sensitive kid, that perceived doubt really bothered me and set the precedent for me to doubt myself. Kids are stupid that way.
– In the eighth grade I had this awesome English teacher I loved, and once I gave him one of my stories to look at. I couldn’t tell you what the story was about, but I can tell you that when he returned it he gave me a stern talk about the use of brackets. He told me that putting sub-thoughts into brackets patronized the reader by implying that they were too stupid to think of this additional information on they’re own. I’m still not sure I agree with that concept, but at the time I couldn’t help but hear an insult. This was my English teacher, telling me that I’d patronized him with my story. As a (definitely overly-) sensitive teenager, this incident helped me to further slide down the slippery slope of self-doubt.
– As high school graduation was nearing, all graduating students had to see a guidance councillor to discuss plans for the future. This basically involved telling the councillor what kid of career path you wanted to take, and he would explain what steps you needed to go through to make that happen. When faced with that meeting I made a choice. Instead of telling the councillor that I wanted to be a writer (and had, in fact, wanted to be one since I was about 8 years old), I told him that I wanted to do something with technology. I made this choice because, while I loved writing with all my heart, the image of myself as a “starving artist” was always at the forefront of my mind. I desperately wanted to write, but I also wanted a house, a car, a family…in other words, financial independence. I was scared. I’d come I seriously doubt my ability to ever make enough money with writing to survive, much less have the other things I wanted in life. I thought that if I pursued writing I would end up penniless and living in my parent’s basement at forty. So I chose to go where I thought the money was. I can’t say whether that choice was ultimately good or bad (though I’m leaning toward good since things have worked out pretty well for me), but I can definitely say that it has directly stifled my literary potential in a major way.
Life is full of these little setbacks, discouraging moments, and crossroads. The trick seems to be pushing past them. Kids take things out of context, pre-teens take criticism to heart, and teenagers have no way of knowing what is the best path for them. These things have negatively affected my growth and potential as a writer, but they’re also in the past now. I can’t go back and make myself feel or react differently; I can only accept how things happened and keeping a forward motion.
I may have had setbacks, and my life may have taken some different turns from what I expected, but nothing that was ever said or done has made me want to be a writer any less.