Why I Started Writing – journal assignment from my first year of art school, 2007-2008, written in defense of the imagination

At my most prolific period as a writer, I was ten years old, and like all bizarrely precocious children in rural towns laden with alcoholism, I hated my life. I was used to it, of course. I hated my life a lot when I was younger. Not because it was so bad, I suppose, because even then I didn’t think a lot about any of the really terrible things going on around me as being terrible and I still don’t. I was just a hateful child, and I remain one, secretly, to this day. I began writing because I hated my friends and they hated me, and I hated my family even though they loved me, and because there was, in my mind, absolutely nothing positive to be said about the realities of the Menominee Reservation in Keshena, Wisconsin, so if one wishes to maintain intellectual stimulation or a sense of there being something more to the world than the patch of land to which I had become horrifyingly accustomed, and most importantly, if one wishes to maintain a sense of hope, one turns from grim reality to the realm of imagination.

I didn’t write fantasy stories the way most children probably do. In fact, when I go back and think about the things that I was writing then, I am almost perplexed at how little anyone must have been paying attention to me. I wrote stories about girls who got pregnant very young, had children that they pawned off on the fathers before running away to California with a rich abusive asshole, becoming HIV-infected, and dying, having never known their children in any real sense, and having left the teenage fathers, whom they had loved but who were “not good enough,” in huge, life-long predicaments. I wrote about wars, epic-scale future wars in very corrupt worlds torn apart by economic ruin, worlds that had been stripped of the glories of modern civilization and reduced to global ghettoes, the likes of which not even the most cynical Compton resident could fathom. In the middle of all this depressed childhood complexity were huge passages of description and tragic endings that even today, I would consider beautiful, and these stories that I wrote then seemed to be more aware of the delicate interplay of brute reality and beauty and loss and sorrow and hope than I even think about now. I often wonder how it is possible that I was so much more intelligent when I was ten years old than now, after years of college, literature, and general life experience. I think it must have something to do with the fact that I wrote every single day, for hours on end, literally daily and for hours, without leaving my room, and because then, without exaggeration, writing myself out of my room and town and world was the only thing that ever made me happy.

I am older now, and have discovered other things that make me happy, and have even come to accept that the reservation is not horrible, not really, just different. There are stories there just like anywhere else, stories full of magic and wonder and miracles, and stories full of real people, that I might really never understand. And now that I am older, I have discovered other things that make me happy: art in general, my friends whom I now only hate some of the time, my family who still love me, a very satisfying mixture of Kahlua, Jameson Whiskey, and Bailey’s Irish Cream on the rocks, community, love. But it remains true that writing is the only thing that makes me happy on a consistent basis, because I am at my core, a total escapist, and though it may be very immature and unreasonable, I like my worlds a lot better than the tangible ones, and since it has not only not been detrimental to me but improved my ability to handle my responsibilities in the tangible world, I see no reason why I should not continue to live in whatever damn world I choose, so long as I am not driving or taking care of children, from time to time.

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