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Maverick

People often take it for granted how significant it is when someone lets them into his or her strange little world. They take for granted how much courage it takes to be completely open and transparent. That’s the toughest thing about writing to me. I have been writing and creating stories since before I even knew how to write. Before I had been taught what all these letters really mean, what all these symbols infer, I would have my mom write down journal entries as I recited them in my squeaky, toddler English. When I did learn how to read and write, I would spend hours of my free time writing stories, filling pages with whatever was in my head. I wrote about heroes and dragons and maidens. I wrote about strength and fate and love. Later I wrote about the world, about the beautiful and the ugly, and the thin line that separates them.
While I loved telling stories, there was always something that scared me about it: criticism. The thing that hurt most when someone criticized my work was that they don’t always realize how much of myself I put in to it. It can really mess you up inside when a critic hates your work, or even if they just pass it off as forgettable. A critic doesn’t always realize that even if the story is straight out of Wonderland, that’s me on the paper. Those emotions brought to life by vivid characters started out inside of me. They grew and grew until the only thing left was to write about them. Sometimes I would want to yell at a negative critic, “That’s my dream you’re talking about! That’s me,” but I never did.
For a while this really twisted my guts. I didn’t know how to write for myself, whilst retaining the approval of my audience. During this time I found that I was dissatisfied with my work, but was still too scared to give myself up to the critics. It was easier just to be numb to it all.


Last year I attended the New England Young Writer’s Conference at the Breadloaf campus in Middlebury, Vermont. I knew that it was going to be a bunch of writers there who would have shared my struggle, so I decided to bring some of my more personal pieces to be workshopped. As soon as I got there I was having a great time connecting with a lot of unique people, but I still felt reserved. During my second day there, the author under whom I was studying, Rone Shavers, said something that lit a fire inside of me. He said, “When faced with negative feedback for following your dreams say, 'thank you', but think 'screw you'." That night I mustered up the courage to read some of my fiction aloud at an open mic. Well, I told them it was fiction but iwas more like a memoir. Once more, I had ventured to put my heart on the page and now I stood before an open mic that might as well have been the mouth of a lion’s den. I began to read and tried to have a strong voice. My whole body was shaking. When I had finished, I looked up and everyone was clapping. I knew some were just being polite, but it appeared as thought they had genuinely enjoyed it. I felt like a king.
I realized that telling my stories wasn’t about feeding back to people what I thought they might like. Anyone can regurgitate standard mediocrity with the forced appeal of a piped-in laugh track. I realized that to write, not for the approval of others, but for the simple sake of creating something special, I had spill my guts out. I had to divulge my secrets and hope that maybe even if some people didn’t approve of them, someone else might be able to connect to them. So rather than write for the approval of others I wrote for their enlightenment or entertainment. In doing so I accepted the risks: the heat of failure, defeat, and humiliation. I realized, however, that the only way to be true to myself, in the hope that somebody else might connect to my work, I would have to do whatever it takes to pour forth my very life and the ideals that make it mine. I would have to have the courage to let them into my strange little world.





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