Having found my love for writing by the age of seven, I have since gone through many stages of the craft throughout my life. Fads, if you will.
In elementary school, it was dad-illustrated, self-typed (couldn’t draw, but could type up a 10-page document at the age of eight) short stories about girls who found ponies and kept them as pets; or Babysitters’ Club copycat stories; or the occasional “racial observation” piece, where a little white girl befriends a little Japanese-American girl and they get into a fight about Pearl Harbor but then they come to terms with their differences and the past and remain friends. (Yeah, this shit actually happened. I WAS EIGHT.)
That didn’t stick.
In junior high and early high school, it was poetry - pre-emo and post-goth poetry, usually about abusive relationships and drugs and self-inflicted violence and how hard it was to live alone in a big city…None of which I had any, and I mean any personal experience with…Jesus Christ, what the hell was wrong with me?
I think I was just taking the material I was reading in real poetry and assuming it was the only way to go for my own, so that didn’t stick.
In my last few years of high school, it was school newspaper journalism and essays for literary magazines. I thought this was what I was going to do: journalism. I told everyone for about three years straight that I was going to “be a journalist,” and everyone seemed to approve or think it noble.
But that didn’t stick either. In college, only after a few weeks, I realized I did not enjoy writing articles, or conducting interviews, or reporting. It bored me, and I wasn’t that good at it because I didn’t care about it. I wanted to care and I still envy amazing journalists, but I think it wasn’t right for me and yet it just felt like the right path to follow. But alas, I did not want to major in Journalism after all; English it was.
I wanted it to stick. It had to. I had no other options here. Writing was my passion, but I was clueless as to how to pursue it. English and Literature are great majors for writers who know what they can use them for after college, but with my indecision on how to make writing a career, I didn’t have the luxury of knowing that for myself.
“You like movies?” A friend said to me after glancing at my somewhat-artsy DVD collection freshman year. “Maybe you should be a film major. Take the first class and see if you like it.” I shrugged in agreement. It was only the second quarter of college. Might as well.
The first required introductory class for the film major was “Narrative Techniques,” or screenwriting. The teacher was a former improv master and comedy writer, who apparently served as a script doctor for films that were not allowed to be named. Though he was absolutely insane, I felt as though I needed to be around people like this all the time. This was the first screenwriting class of many to come during my subsequent film studies.
It was also the first in a series of gradual building towards something called “Sharing Your Writing.” Yeah, I know, who thought you had to do that as a writer?! I had always avoided it as much as possible until these classes. My teacher said that before presenting your script to someone, you were not to babble on or make excuses or demean the very work by saying things like, “Oh, it’s not that good, but…” or “I still need to change this or that…” Instead, you hand them your script and you say:
“This is something I wrote”
Those five words held so much power for me then, and they form a lump in my throat now. “This is something I wrote.” Not only did I learn a new craft of writing and a new discipline entirely, but I learned to finally take ownership of the things I wrote, to put them out there for everyone to see and to just sit back and listen, calmly and confidently, to the positive and negative critiques. You were forced to face the music for every page you wrote, and by senior year, I had done the read-through process with my teachers and peers so many times that I no longer felt any embarrassment or shame. (Whereas the first few times, I thought that surely I would die Simply die.)
In all honestly, I felt proud. Even if I knew it wasn’t as good as it could have been, I had written something and it was being read aloud by people. Something I wrote was now full of noise and feeling and it was alive, and I felt at peace.
Of all the writing phases and forms, this is indeed my most beloved while undoubtedly the scariest. Without the comforts of an encouraging college environment, I’m now left with a few first pages of about a dozen unfinished scripts, and hundreds of notes and snippets of scenes hastily and haphazardly written in a notebook. I keep trying to find the courage to bring all my stories to life again, and though I will tell my conscience that work or anything else is stopping me, I keep stopping myself. That’s another thing my first screenwriting teacher said to us:
“The only person stopping you from doing this is you.”
He was right.
My own potential staring me right in the face, and I won’t even look it in the eye. Once I finally do, maybe it’ll stick.