At some point between adolescence and adulthood, every person formulates a plan for their life. I did not plan to become a writer. ‘A series of random accidents’ might be more appropriate than ‘journey’ to describe the unrelated incidents that put me on this path.
I received a journal as a gift from one of my sisters on my thirteenth birthday (random accident number one). Every teenage girl has this specific notion about how to keep a diary – and usually, it mirrors some drivel we saw in a movie. Mine certainly did. My entries dramatised the tiniest event into a Homer-esque epic, and for a while my hopes, dreams and desires become as unrealistic as the most ludicrous B-grade Hollywood film.
That first journal saw me through high school – it celebrated my achievements and highlights, commiserated with my failures (usually as it pertained to boys), disappointments and lowlights, and kept secret the deepest, darkest parts of me, parts I could not show to anyone. I could be as tactless and opinionated as I wanted to be, and gave my underdeveloped frontal lobe free reign.
I kept it for a while after I had written on the last page, but did not continue to keep a journal, and my writing became limited to college assignments and tests, messages in birthday cards and letters. My girlfriends and I wrote mock flirty love notes to our male friends as a joke during our penultimate year at high school (random accident number two). I’ve somehow always managed to make people feel good or laugh with the letters and messages I’ve written, and even today I still enjoy that form of communication.
I became obsessed with reading though, and even though work, life and family give me less time to read these days, it continues to be a great love of mine.
Writing became an essential part of my day job – I don’t have a particularly dazzling command of the English language, but (and I don’t mean this unkindly) I do have a better command than many of my colleagues (and an unhealthy case of syntax OCD). I unofficially became the communications editor, and thereafter (random accident number three) the unofficial PRO.
My best friend has been instrumental in my journey (random accident number four). In 2011, she introduced me to the concept of blogging – and I thought, “Wow. It’s like keeping a journal, but I can share my life, experiences and opinions with people.” She also introduced me to the world of fan fiction, which has become my very guilty pleasure (I know many will be frowning at this). Countless times I’ve fallen into a melancholy because a story came to an end, or a character met an untimely death, or made a wrong decision, or ended up with the wrong person. Fan fiction allows me to keep my favourite characters alive after the story has finished, allows me to change sad endings into happy ones, and allows me to explore areas I am not yet able to in real life.
Between professional and creative writing pursuits, I couldn’t decide which I enjoyed more or which I was better at, and decided to join a writing class for a semester. This was the first planned part of my journey and those months were some of the happiest of my life – the discussions, the encouragement from and exchange of ideas with my peers, even the critical feedback from my lecturer – these all contributed in equal measure to my growth as a writer. I was exposed to every type of writing possible and that exposure unlocked a skill I didn’t know I had. It strengthened my conviction in my own ideas but made me develop an appreciation for a different opinion. It squashed my arrogant notion that I was always right, and all but killed my irrational need to always be right. Writing gave me a voice, and showed me ways I could share that voice with the world.
I started to notice a pattern on my literary journey: whenever I’d finished reading a story that managed to completely captivate and engage me, I felt this overwhelming sense of envy towards the author – and so many times I found myself saying, “I wish I could write something as amazing as that”. And it didn’t stop at fiction – a beautiful song lyric, or movie quote, or poem; it was like having a hand reach through your chest, through skin and bone to squeeze your soul. The advice we’re always given is to write from our own experiences, and I am learning to do just that. But the bulk of my inspiration often comes from the stories I read.
The old adage says that the pen is mightier than the sword. I’ve written my way out of clinical depression. I’ve had epic fights (and come through them) over email. I’ve overcome so many challenges, simply by committing them to paper – whether through a whiny blog post, an email, a letter to a newspaper, a heart-wrenching fan fiction story or a poem (no one is more shocked than I am that I was even able to write a poem). Writing has become a weapon that enabled me to fight and emerge triumphant through some of the worst times of my life, and it became my voice when I couldn’t say things out loud. My pen became my sword.
I have yet to find my niche in the writing world, have yet to write a great epic. Every writer will tell you, there are days when the frustration and disappointment reaches immeasurable levels. Comments are not always friendly, encouraging or complimentary. Literary rejection is a real and painful thing.
But for the first time ever I have a goal – to profoundly affect at least one person with my words, as I have been affected by the words of others – and I am one hundred per cent willing to navigate the rock-strewn terrain of this journey in order to achieve it.