Creating a creative life.
(I’m going to share a content warning up front, this post will discuss a suicide attempt so please only read on if it is right for you.)
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a writer. I grew up writing poems (terrible, terrible poems), short stories, kids books, random novel plots and drafts, you name it I explored it via writing. I wrote funny poems to amuse my friends in class, flash fiction (not knowing it was called flash fiction at the time) to make my high school classmates blush, I thrived on watching people read something I’d created.
During my junior year in high school our school’s literary journal had a period of open submission. I wrote and submitted a short story about a young girl attempting suicide. Now, here is where the CW comes in, when I was in the 7th grade I attempted suicide by overdose. I’d called a single friend to say goodbye and she told her mom out of fear who in turn called 911 and I ended up rushed to the hospital, had my stomach pumped, and remained in the hospital with my wrists strapped to the bed for over 24 hours. It was a very dark period in my life full of anger, self-hatred, bitterness, I swirled in an internal whirlpool of rage.
So, when I submitted this short story about attempted suicide, nearly four years later, I painted a very realistic scene. Apparently it was too realistic because it set off a domino effect of heightened reactions within the school’s administration. This was a different school district, they knew nothing of what had happened in the 7th grade. (We moved as I entered the 8th grade and considered it a fresh start of sorts.) The teach overseeing submissions contacted the school counselor, who contacted the principal, who reached out to my parents, which turned into meetings upon meetings about my mental state and their concern for my well-being. The focus shifted from if my story was even any good to flashing red lights of “wait,” “stop,” “no one should read this.”
After the deluge of meetings this single story caused I stopped writing. I was terrified of writing anything. I only let myself think about writing. I’d pass a sign and think, “that’d make a great title,” pass a river, “that would be great for a setting,” but never did I let myself write any of these details down. Everything had to be kept inside. Hidden. Safe.
It wasn’t until I was listening to an episode of the podcast 88 Cups of Tea (such a phenomenal podcast I should add) with Tamora Pierce where she described a writing-related anxiety tangentially similar to mine that a lightbulb finally went off. It’s been over two decades of keeping my writing ideas and efforts bottled up inside and I never made the connection as to why I simply couldn’t bring myself to bring pen to paper. It was an incredibly cathartic moment of realization and the walls I’d spent years building up started to come tumbling down.
I wasn’t going to simply say I wanted to write, I was going to let myself actually start writing again. But that brought on a new anxiety when thinking about where to even start. I saw some dear friends recommending the book Growing Gills by Jessica Abel and another cherished friend recommended Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve been reading GG and listening to the audiobook of BM and they’ve both been life changing for me.
I’m starting to feel connected to my creative life again. I’m starting to feel the thrill of ideas flowing and I’m actually writing them down. (I’ve even started an idea notebook to collect random things I stumble across that cause a spark.) I purchased How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry on the recommendation of a very trusted and respected source, C. S. E. Cooney, to tackle the intimidation I’ve felt trying to return to poetry. I’m also in the most supportive relationship I’ve ever been in with a partner that only wants to see me happy and does all he can to help make my dreams a reality.
Carving out a creative life is not easy for me but I’m taking it one step and one day at a time. I can’t wait to share this journey with the the digital ether because it makes it that much more real. And who knows, someone somewhere might just need to hear that it’s okay and it can get better like I did when I heard Tamora Pierce.
Happy creating lovelies!