The stars were out early that April night. I watched them moodily, gazing out my window as my brother drove my parents and me home. I was on the brink of sleep, blinking the vast stellar sight in and out of view until an odd sound came from the speakers around me. My eyes instantly snapped open as I struggled to recognize the noise. I thought it was either groaning or a violin - or was it some bizarre combination of the two? From the passenger seat, my mom, whose voice gave away the fact that she too was suddenly awake, asked, "Aren't those whales singing?"
Nobody answered. But there was more! An even stranger sound surrounded me, enveloping me in its mystery. It could have been a message from aliens about how eerie and evocative outer space was. Then I realized: it had to be an electric guitar. I listened for the rest of the car ride, hardly aware of anything outside me (or was I aware of something beyond myself?) for my ears were straining to put the lyrics together: "It's not a breeze 'cuz it blows hard/Yes, and it wants me to discard/The humanity I know watched the warmth blow away ..."
My mind strayed to the book I had just read, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. For some reason, this song was extraordinarily reminiscent of it, but I could not quite place why. I knew the lyrics could be easily extrapolated to embrace the core themes of the book, except it wasn't just the words that moved me. It was the subconscious of the song itself, telling me to remember who I am and what I have come for - to communicate my message, whatever it is, to the rest of the world. And then I was hit with the sudden urge to go on a quest, a quest for the truth, and to make a novel out of it.
I wanted to create a masterpiece as poignant as Ender's Game. I wanted to touch the souls of people I will never know. I wanted to grow a new plant in the garden of knowledge, making some difference in the environment of the earth. And so the moment I got home, I plunked down in front of my computer, turned on Winamp (my music-playing program), and listened to the song I had just heard, "The Warmth" by Incubus, for what must have been a hundred times. At the same time, I drew a picture of a woman watching a supernova. I titled it "Cosmic Cataclysm" and worked on it until I finally yielded to my need for sleep.
The next day, I drew another picture, this time of meteors and stars, with yet another supernova in the distance. (These pictures help me come up with plots, like all sketches I draw when listening to music.) That day, I also started the novel, if I can use such a lofty word, that I'm still working on today. It took four beginnings to get going, but going I am - and I must say that if it weren't for hearing that song after reading that book on that night, I may not be writing this novel right now.
Now you may be wondering, what exactly is it that matters to me? A song? No, it's deeper than that - it's the creative spark deep inside all of us. It's our means of expressing ourselves, of reaching deep inside and coming up with something beautiful. And it is that beauty within all of us that we must show the rest of the world.
What I look forward to when I wake up in the morning or come home from school is writing with music. If you gave me a CD player, a notebook and a pen, I could amuse myself for hours by sketching and discovering my characters in different situations, coming up with a whole bunch of new ideas for plots. Ultimately, I type these situations and their outcomes onto my computer. Writing is my escape from reality, and my way to return to it. When I'm not working on this novel, I write poetry because I like to use words as my way of expressing and coming to know myself.
Another form of this creative spark, music, is vital to my survival as a writer. Many songs have moved and inspired me, stirring a feeling I never had. Without inspiration - without music - I am a painter without a canvas, a marine biologist marooned on Mercury. Music is a wonderful background to my life; I take advantage of it whenever I get the chance. I always listen to it when I do homework, which sometimes leads me to drawing my characters. I find that my writing is worth sacrificing sleep, or staying up late to finish homework. I would sacrifice almost anything for my writing. I wouldn't mind if I was put under house arrest, or even room arrest; I could just stay at my computer typing away and listening to my music in the hopes of one day having a finished product.
And it is that creative drive that thrusts me into the depths of the night searching for myself, that motive that compels me to throw even my worst experiences onto my word processor, that force that transcends all, pushing us to express ourselves - that is what I live for. That is what humanity thousands of years from now will look back on: the way we lived our lives, how we viewed ourselves, and how much we reached beyond ourselves for something a little more. That is what matters.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.