Or at least, for about seven years. Which felt like “for good” at the time.
The hiatus started sometime in ’03 or ’04. I was around 16 years old and caught like a sea turtle in the plastic six-pack rings of an abusive friendship. This person verbally lacerated me down to the bone on a constant basis (with physical violence occasionally too – because what’s abuse without a good old-fashioned strangling, right?) Tried as I might to get out, I was always manipulated back. Usually with suicide threats.
The thing that first connected us was writing. I LOVED writing. Growing up, I’d been that kid frantically scribbling stories at every possible moment, whose mind brimmed with people and places and plots. But soon writing devolved into an exercise in dread, because anything this person didn’t like was lashed to bits.
I was manipulated into believing I was an awful, horrible, no-good writer. So at 16, I stopped.
Fiction, anyway. Poetry had always been private, so it wasn’t marred. Essays for school were safe. But fiction was kaput.
I finished high school and went off to college for dance. I poured my heart out on the stage instead of the page. I may not have been writing, but I was still creative: choreographing, drawing, film-making, composing music. During that period, I finally severed ties with my abuser.
Sometime in 2010, at age 23, I was stuck at work supervising a rehearsal studio. I had my laptop with me, all ready to internet the day away because I had literally nothing else to do except sit and make sure nobody lit themselves on fire. But in a serendipitous twist of fate that seemed calamitous at the time but turned out to change my life, the internet wasn’t working, and I’d forgotten a book.
I quickly became bored. Like, pull-your-hair-out-and-count-it level of bored. What in the world could I do to while away the hours, stuck in one spot with a WiFi-less laptop?
The MS Word icon batted its lashes at me.
That moment changed everything. It cracked me open just enough to let the old writer squeeze through. Because I wasn’t setting out ~*~To Write Something.~*~ And I definitely wasn’t trying to write something GOOD. I was just trying to not be bored.
That’s when I wrote Beard Man. And I had SUCH a good time! I chuckled to myself the whole time I typed, writing straight through with no stops. Storytelling was fun again.
My hiatus hadn’t completely ended, but it was on its way. Fiction started nibbling at my consciousness again, leaving little mouse holes in my brain. A few months after Beard Man I wrote another short thing, again nothing serious, just something to play around with. More nibbles, bigger mouse holes.
What sealed the deal was a lazy afternoon in the autumn of 2011. My boyfriend and I (in the young stages of our relationship) were lying around, chatting about bucket lists. Here’s what I said:
“Before I die, I’m going to write a novel.”
I don’t know what it was about that moment, but the words weren’t just words. It wasn’t an empty someday-hope, like “Ohh maybe someday I’ll go to Greece. Maybe someday I’ll learn the accordion.” My statement sunk its teeth in, and I knew – KNEW – I was going to write a novel. I NEEDED to.
What I didn’t know was how soon it would happen.
Almost exactly two years later, in October of 2013, I typed “The End” on my first manuscript.
Finishing one’s first novel is a triumphant and surreal experience for anyone, but for me it was especially meaningful because it smashed to pieces every damaging belief that’d been drilled into me. It shredded every destructive thing I’d been told, shot down every insult. I looked those beliefs in the face and said, “You’re wrong.”
Now I’m querying that first novel and nearly done with a second. Four of my short stories have been published.
I am a writer, and no one can take that away from me.