It was back in the early 80’s when I first sat in front of a blue plastic Brother beginners typewriter. This machine was manual, plastic and could only type in capital letters. I remember the first thing I wrote, or should I say typed. It was a cross between Star Wars, Battlestar Gallatica and other science fiction that an eleven year old would be drawn to. I believe that the story ran out of steam at about 31 pages but it was the first thing that I can remember putting down on paper that was as close as I could get to something original.
The next memory of my pursuit of writing came in the form of a research paper a few years after my first attempt. It was a documentary of sorts on survivors of the Vietnam War. In this little piece, I even went out and interviewed people who served or lost family members during that time. I even entered it into my school’s history contest to see how far I could go with it. Well, this attempt fared better than the fiction story as it made it to Honorable Mention in the county-wide contest. Before you congratulate me on this feat, it was the lowest recognition that anyone in my class received. So, I let my desires to be published take a back seat to other pursuits.
I wanted to write, not for the recognition but to be able to give to someone a place to escape from the world around them. I remember in my early childhood, sitting in the back room of my aunt’s house reading everything I could get my hands on. I couldn’t get enough and during some very difficult years of my young life, this is what helped me to get through. To this day, I devour as many books as I can get my hands on. I wanted to be able to spin a tale of fiction to transport the reader to a place where there wasn’t divorce, loss and fear. Where the underdog could find a way to save the world or conquer the impossible. This world would make them think and live in a way that reality couldn’t deliver. I wanted to create something from the imagination that would come alive and grow.
My next attempt was not a conscious act of writing as much as a discovery of a new technology. It started in the dial-up era of computing with a service call AOL. I remember working late at the office of a small company that I started. I was using the internet to research clients and a window popped up on my screen asking me how I was doing and then another window appeared asking me about myself. In that moment, my characters started to come to life. My early typing on that Brother typewriter gave me enough skills to keep many conversations going at once, each of them a different personality. I would spin tales of character that had a unique background, nothing overboard but different from the person that was typing them. I would, at times, have over ten characters playing out at once. The phantoms could be male or female, with various background and occupation. The difficulty laid in remembering the stories because I soon found out that, to the person on the other end of the message, thought each was real.
I started keeping track of the story lines and personas that were created. Weaving them into stories and connecting them to the other characters that I created to add depth. Oh, I do wish I still had those notes from those days as I believe I created a little community of people, though the reality was I felt like I was falling into my own fractured personalities. In the end, my imaginary world had no plot, people lost interest. I have to admit that a couple started to get attached to the characters and had to be let down easily. In the end, I discovered that this was not the stories I had hoped to create and like my first attempt of my youth, it ended abruptly without conclusion.
I once was a writer. Fast forward twenty years and you are reading this confession on your screen. Am I still a writer? No. Putting a few words together on a screen does not define a writer. Somewhere, through the years, I lost my imaginary friends and stories. However, most of all, I lost the innocence that helps to create those fictional worlds that can magically transport a reader to another place. Instead, I ramble on about thoughts and observations of the world around me with little hope of impacting the reader. I lay in bed at night and stories still play through my mind without the ability to convert them to paper. I see the worlds as if they are a movie that I alone are able to see but unable to project them to others. I have tried many methods from journaling to voice recording but as soon as I start to let the story out, it fades into darkness. To say I still have a chance to be a writer is on the same page as believing that person in their fourth decade could go from playing on the company softball team to the majors league.
Should I give up? I honestly believe that isn’t in my nature. I will still sit here day after day and pound out words and hope that I will get beyond the first chapter of an idea. Who knows, it is said that even a monkey, given enough time, could compose a Shakespearian novel.
Until next time….