There was a time when I stopped writing.

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For good.

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.

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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.

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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.

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14 thoughts on “There was a time when I stopped writing.

  1. A fantastic comeback, glad you are again writing and here to stay. I think all of us have to deal with other people’s negativity from time to time. In high school, my older sister was a far better writer; we had the same teachers and they often (unfavorably) compared my work to hers. English wasn’t my strongest subject and they did not encourage me. Much later in life, I had two “Aha!” moments. A friend told me something I’d written in a card had deeply impacted her. “You need to write,” she said, “Your words touch people.” The second was a college poetry teacher, whose class I had taken for fun. “Purely delightful!” was her comment on my first-ever poem, “Keep going!” And I have. Talent needs water and sunshine to grow and develop. Thanks, Shannon, for sharing your inspiring story 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing how these small and unexpected comments from others can affect us so strongly. Your poetry teacher probably had no idea that her four words would change your life! I’m so sorry to hear of the negativity dealt to you about your writing, but happy to hear you’ve rediscovered your love of it! To echo your professor: keep going! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad that that your dreadful, negative experiences are behind you and that you returned to writing. I love reading your work, but more than that I love your seemingly boundless enthusiasm and energy for the craft. You are supportive and encouraging of those you interact with – of which I am glad to be one such person – and you are most certainly a writer.

    Thanks for sharing this piece – I think the negative aspects will resonate with many (for me it was the lack of encouragement through school and the ingrained belief I’d never be good enough that held me back until my late thirties, and to an extent still hamstrings me now) but your positivity and resilience will undoubtedly inspire others as it inspires me.

    p.s. liked Beard Man a lot 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you SO MUCH, Nik, for this touching note. It means a lot to me. I genuinely love supporting other writers, particularly you! Your stories are so great, I really mean it when I say how much I enjoy them. It’s natural and okay to struggle with self-doubts. I’m glad you’re writing through those doubts – it’s a wonderfully rebellious act to do the thing you’ve been ingrained to believe you can’t do. There’s a quote by Van Gogh I love that can also be applied to writing: “If you hear a voice within you that says ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” I hope you keep writing and silencing that voice, because the world would be a greyer place without your words. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you stuck to it. I stopped writing for many years even though someone really liked my work and thought I should continue. It was only years later that I confessed to someone else about my dream to write a novel. She thought it was neat, but she always reminded me every time I saw her (she was a bartender at a local bar I frequented often). She always asked me how my writing was going. often it wasn’t going at all. But it reminded me of my earlier dream. So I sat down and wrote that damn novel which is currently out to beta readers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s so great to hear! It’s nice to know when someone is thinking of us and cares enough about our dream to remember it and ask about it. I’m glad you had that person. And congratulations on finishing!! Wooo!

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  4. Powerful stuff. What struck the deepest chord with me about the experience you’ve shared here is the overwhelming sense of inevitability; it’s obvious you couldn’t not write. This post brings to mind E.B. White’s explanation of his writing: “A book is a sneeze.” (From a letter to Ursula Nordstrom, his editor at Harper & Row, available in full at Letters of Note)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that! “A book is a sneeze.” That’s wonderful.

      When I said I would write a book, it felt so unequivocally true. I knew I couldn’t finish this life without doing it. Saying it out loud in that moment cemented that feeling.

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