I raised my hand and it fluttered in the air for a moment.
“Yes?” asked the woman, before my fingers could retreat.
“What occurrences in your life influenced your writing?” I asked, softly at first, then louder as I was encouraged by her nod and smile.
She looked around the room, thinking. The day was sultry in the seaside town of Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii. That was outside, though. I sat in a colorful, air-conditioned room along with 15 college, high-school, and intermediate students. Red and blue ottomans had been pushed into a circle and there we lounged, intent upon her.
This woman, a slight, raven-haired figure with fine features, was Kyoko Mori. An author and instructor at Harvard, she had come to speak about the craft of writing at a day-long University of Hawaii program. The majority of the students were a great deal older than me, a 12-year-old.
Having mulled over the question, Mori explained how she had directly experienced some of what was in her novels. “But most,” she added, “I observed through the lives of others.”
I accepted that for the moment. The conversation continued, leaping from one topic to another at an astonishing pace. When I got home, however, a question came to mind: How could one observe events well enough to write about them? I puzzled over this for a while, then forgot about it.
Months later, I was in the middle of a watercolor class. I carefully painted a house reflected in a shimmering pond. As I noted the subtle shadows in the water, it occurred to me that Ms. Mori was correct about the need for observation. To paint the depths of water contrasting with the light-catching patches, it helped to pretend that I sat near that pool. After squinting at the paper in a most peculiar fashion, I was able to create a semblance of life on a formerly blank piece of paper.
Before I met Ms. Mori, I had never pondered where my ideas for creating came from. If pressed to answer that, I may have muttered, only half-jesting, “One needs to have uncommon genius and talented muses.” Perhaps I had flirted with the concept of awareness but it was only a sketchy idea, without a name or a place. My meeting with Ms. Mori and my subsequent reflections and conversations with others cemented that fleeting idea.
On a wider scope, this meeting with Ms. Mori has demonstrated the importance of allowing a great deal of thought about matters of importance to me. Watching the world can lead to revelations about mankind, and I certainly have no intention of keeping my thoughts to myself. Last summer, I explored cultures in Western Europe which differed drastically from my own in Hawaii. I then showcased my photos, paintings, and words from this experience.
I hope to go through life in much the same manner, keeping my eyes and ears open to form my own opinions. I know that college will provide ample opportunities for this. Then, through my words and brushstrokes, I intend to present my own delicately blooming philosophies. I have already begun by writing articles for school newspapers and essay contests, as well as having enlightening conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances. Who knows - you may one day see my books or hear me lecture at a college. I may be a different version of Ms. Mori, opening the minds of others to sparkling, new ways to perceive the world.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.