from "In Memoriam"
BooksReadingWriting

Why I started running, er… writing.

Imagine a gangly, awkward 10-year-old, no braces yet and with an overbite worthy of Bugs Bunny, and frizzy blonde hair with HUGE purple glasses—that’s me.

I remember telling people I wanted to be a writer. I was a hardcore reader by 10, reading and re-reading my favorite novels until I had them memorized. At this early age I envied the way some authors just had a way with words, how they could describe exactly how I was feeling better than I could. How they could pluck my innermost thoughts out of my heart and put them on paper. These authors were writing directly to me.

And I knew—we don’t just read good words, we experience them. To this day I read the words of C.S. Lewis and FEEL them.

So I always said I would write a book. And no, I’m not like C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien (if only!), but stories like theirs had huge impacts on my heart. My innermost imaginings consisted of impossible worlds and childlike heroes. The back of my closet opened into another world if I could just look into it at the exact right moment—I checked it quite frequently. I lived in anticipation of great things about to happen.

I wrote little stories here and there, but even as a child I knew that to be a writer one needed to constantly be writing. Except I would go days and days without writing. And I felt guilty for it. Then, I didn’t write at all so I wouldn’t have to be a failure. I shut out the call to create stories, harboring the guilt in my young heart for doing so. No one knew because I never told them.

Poor kid.

As time went on, I pursued other hobbies, but writing was always something I listed when people asked me what I wanted to do “when I grew up.” I just rarely ventured into that realm. Because I was afraid, I guess. Perhaps because to write is to bare your soul a little bit. And if anyone reads it, you put yourself on the line to be judged. My 10-year-old self wouldn’t have been able to explain it like that. But I was probably afraid of judgement or something like it, or afraid of consistency.

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Fast forward to 2014 when I was teaching high school English and Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” It’s pretty standard for 11th grade, and I had actually HATED it when I read it in high school. But teaching the classics is more enlightening than reading them, and I started to catch things as I re-read it, nuances that were lost to me as a 17-year-old. Depths of feeling that perhaps became more poignant as I aged. And I wanted more to the story. So I wrote snippets of conversation and imagined the story from the point of Elizabeth Proctor. And that’s all it was, snippets and trails of thought.

I wrote them down only for myself. No one has ever read them, and they’re really not worth reading for anyone but me. But in writing those words I remembered a forgotten joy, one that was free from the guilt I felt as a child. Writing was FUN. And I needed fun.

Stuck in a stressful occupation, I had an intense desire to CREATE something. Something that was mine. Something not determined by anyone else, not on other teachers or administrators or students’ test scores. It wasn’t contingent on anything but me. And if it didn’t turn out how I wanted, I could figure out how to make it better.

At the same time, I discovered Doctor Who. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s campy and funny and sad and smart and ridiculous all at the same time. I binge-watched all the available seasons on Netflix, starting with the 2005 reboot, and thought, If others can write crazy plots and storylines like this and get away with it, and have so much fun doing it, why am I not writing more? Why can’t I do it?

And an inner voice, speaking from years of perceived failure and self-doubt, told me I couldn’t.

But my writing was always going to happen. I always knew I would write something. All I needed was for someone to tell me I couldn’t. And in this case, that someone was me.

In the first episode of the 2005 reboot, “Rose,” the Doctor takes Rose’s hand, says “Run,” and whisks her away from danger (from plastic aliens, no less). Crazy as it sounds, I’ll always remember when the Doctor stole my heart and whispered “write” instead of grabbing my hand and yelling “run!”

Great opening line, by the way—“Run.” As if the Doctor were speaking to all the fans who were and are and would be and telling them to get ready to run with him. To be loyal and have adventures. (Like Peter Pan, another childhood favorite.) The Doctor wasn’t just telling Rose to run, he was inviting in a new era of Doctor Who.

For me it was a call to action, not to create another campy TV show but my own brand of story, one that I could have fun with. Maybe others will enjoy it, too.

And finally, I know what I want to do when I grow up…

Run.

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