Of Words and Worlds
When you’re a kid, you’re relatively powerless. Add being an only child, having a painfully bashful predisposition, and having an eccentric personality that you’ve yet to really grow into, let alone embrace—and you have younger me. I had a crippling phobia of ball so gym became a nightmare. It was a required class too, thus I’d often find myself stranded amid a cacophony of balls flying, kids screaming, and teachers perhaps too distracted to manage the chaos. I’d sag off into my corner and watch, hoping for the chaos to keep at bay. Feeling like a coward. Cultivating a complex that would morph and lead to a smatter of other insecurities. At the core was powerlessness. I was small, even for my age. I knew death before I should’ve, maybe. And then again. Again. Again. Powerlessness became a fixture. And there was no friction to be had outside the escapism provided by creativity. Television. Movies. Other people’s fantasies laid out for me to watch and enjoy.
So I tried my hand at drawing up worlds of my own, a bit more intricate than my past scribbles. Being slightly older, I started putting words to my worlds, serious words—keeping record of the movies that played almost constantly behind tired eyes. They’d fall together, in vague semblances of coherence. They’d give shape to characters, dialogues. They’d imbue in my small hands a sense of power, something I was at a loss for in reality. And for however long, I’d immerse myself and play with my friends my allies my words.
Words were a foothold against the hurricane of early preadolescence. I would hold bouquets of dreams between little ears, given life by my hands, if only on paper. I’d create a role model, an alter ego, a nemesis. I’d take the things that scared me, make them a character beholden to my will, and fight back. In my head I had power. My notebooks were the exhibits.
My worlds collected nuance with age. I’d find myself trying to understand rather than vilify. I think watching and reading and writing has expanded and honed my empathy like little else. As a writer, you become every character, however shallow, one-dimensional, or wicked they may be. You try to find the anatomy of an emotion, the color, the flavor.
You learn there will always be beautiful things to do with words, even when you don’t have much to say. You can talk forever about nothing and, if you’re talented and practiced enough, make it beautiful.
Or on the days when you’re at your most charged and electric and genuine, you can hold a body’s worth of emotion in a tiny sentence, and make it say everything. Words are catharsis. Words are release.
I have to write because if I don’t I get down. Bummed. Overwhelmed. It’s just one of those natural, inexplicable drives that I have, and not everyone has it so I can’t expect everyone to understand. I have been through phases where I hate writing as much, if not more, than I love it. That’s probably in part due to my OCD, and in other part due to feeling like I’ve wasted my time. It’s easy to feel like you’re wasting your time when you write your heart out to little or no applause. When the validation just isn’t there. It’s not so much that you want to be the shallow archetype of “rich and famous”, but you want people to appreciate the results of your labor, the baring of your soul. There’s nothing shallow about that, in my opinion. And I understand.
Why did I write, then, back before I had a place to publish?
I guess...hope. It’s how I am—I have to have something to wake up for, something to chase after. To borrow a phrase from Nolan’s Joker, “I’m like a dog chasing cars; I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one.” It’s the thrill of the chase. I’ve chased recognition since I was young, perhaps too young to even grasp what recognition truly was. All I knew was, whenever the teacher would let me read one of my stories to the class, whenever I’d get to share the thing that I wrote with another person—I don’t think you can really put *that* feeling into words, and I wanted more. Now I’m here and I have 586 followers and that’s amazing to me. But the aspirational side of me tells me to keep going. The day I stop chasing bigger cars is the day I stagnate, and that’s a bit too close to giving up for my tastes.
I found power in the words. I find life in the chase. And really, what more could you ask for?