How Lit Goes – Picking up the Pencil

Most of the people in my life did not encourage me to pursue a creative career. 

My small-town family is practical. Get a job, buy a house, and take care your family. 

Those things never appealed to me. 

Photo by Matt Hardy

If I think back, there isn’t a time I can remember when I wasn’t writing a story. 

I can recall being 7 or 8 and creating miniature books out of lined notebook paper.  I would write a small story and illustrate each page then price them according to how good I thought they looked or how much effort was put into the story. 

Sometimes they were 25 cents, other times they were as much as 50 cents. Needless to say, my mom kept a supply of quarters around. 

However, I didn’t imagine myself becoming a professional writer until high school.  English class started allowing more freedom for creativity instead of constant book reports. 

Unfortunately, this was also the time I started reading Edgar Allen Poe and Greek mythology.  These dark and extreme stories spoke to my teen angst.  I had a tumultuous upbringing, and those stories of darkness, no matter how bleak, were still beautiful to read. 

They gave me hope that my experiences weren’t just things that happened, but things that I could use as fuel to move my pencil across the page and create something real through the fantasy of a story. 

When I first read The Cask of Amontillado, I was 14 and in awe. The sinister story weaved and bobbed with suggestions of vengeance but also maintained a dignity in its words. 

I was immediately inspired. 

I wrote a 4-page piece of prose entitled I Dreamt of a Thousand Nightmares.  This was very much in the style of Poe, and I was incredibly proud.  I tried to get everyone to read it: teachers, friends, anyone. 

This was my first time being sent to the guidance counselor’s office because my writing “concerned” my teachers. 

When I wrote, I was writing in extremes.  If I was sad, it was especially sad.  I could pour out those emotions on the page in an intense fashion and release those feelings as fiction. 

It became my art, and (after enough trips to the school office) my secret. 

When I was 17, I had a new English teacher who was in her early 20s.  She was kind and openminded.  I showed her my work and for the first time it was encouraged. 

She asked me if I had ever tried to get published and offered to submit my poem for a writing competition.  This was the first time my creativity was seen as a valued craft instead of just a hobby. 

It felt right, as if I had finally found my place. 

Since then, I’ve become a more inquisitive and observational writer.  I’m not focused on my experiences as much, but what might be the experience of others. 

Everyone has a story. 

I imagine how a stranger I’ve glimpsed evolved to their current form based on their appearance, body language, and general manner.  Then put it to the page. 

Writing is taking the mind’s expression, allowing it to be shared, and hoping that once read a fellow human being will feel heard and maybe a little less alone. 

Essentially, we’re all same. 

We want acknowledgment that it isn’t just us feeling that way. We feel the same range of emotions. 

I want to be the kind of writer who captures those emotions because I don’t believe it’s the story that matters. 

What matters is how connected the reader is while consuming the story. 

Photo by Sam Lion

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